Abraham Salum Previews James Beard House Dinner He Will Serve in New York

Abraham Salum and staff practice James Beard House Dinner menu. (photo by Desiree Espada)

Abraham Salum will head to The James Beard House in New York where he will prepared dinner on October 21. His audience will be some of the most discriminating palates in the city and will include chefs, food industry veterans, members of the media, and discerning palates of the general public. Leaving nothing to chance, he held a rehearsal dinner last night at Salum to fine tune the menu and hone the execution. I was fortunate to be an invited guest at the event, at which nearly ninety diners savored the five-course meal with matching wines. Look out New York.

Jump for party and food photos by Desiree Espada.

Sous Chef Al Havens prepares corn demitasse (photo by Desiree Espada)

The most exciting thing about James Beard rehearsal dinners is that you get to taste a chef’s food that has no holds barred. Everything else in the timetable leading up to the event is relegated to secondary status. Food and wine budgets are raised as necessary. The whole staff is focused on the program to produce the best the chef can do. Last night’s dinner did not disappoint. The full menu is below, but two dishes stood out for me as stars in the lineup. First Chilled Cream of Corn Demitasse, Whipped Queso Fresco Cream, Huitlacoche Fritter and Manzano Chili Oil was a silky smooth blend of corn blended to a consistency that gave it the body to coat the tongue before swallowing. The oil and some garlic perked up the sweet flavors of the corn making for a delicate and memorable first course. Notice the combination of influences here from Salum and Komali.

Harmony: Braised Pork Jowl with Piloncillo and Pasilla Chile, Potato and Sweet Potato Hash, Mache Tomato Salad (photo by Desiree Espada)

The meat course of Braised Pork Jowls with Piloncillo and Pasilla Chile, Potato and Sweet Potato Hash, Mache Tomato Salad combined the distinctive taste of pork with the intensity of a reduced stock infused with the rich flavor of pasilla and a hint of sweetness from the piloncillo. The hash absorbed all these flavors as if marinated in the sauce beforehand. But the acid in the tomato stood alone, as a foil for the homely flavors in the reduction. Not only does a chef take his food to the James Beard House, he provides the wine too. Jonathan Nicholson of Republic National Distributing Company did an inspired job choosing wines that synergized with the food. The braised pork got a 2006 Polus Tempranillo, Rioja Alavesa, Spain. This wine has a massive structure, possibly from the Graciano in the blend, or the age of the vines. The salt in the pork adeptly moderated the tannic bite from its American oak aging. I also have to mention the choice of 2010 Craggy Range Chardonnay, Kidnapper’s Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. I am not usually a fan of unoaked Chardonnays but this one had an elegance and mineral backbone that pitched it perfectly with the ambitious seared scallop with pickled beets.

Left: Oven roasted sea bass, pumpkin bisque, shaved Brussels sprout, Spanish chorizo saute, and Dukkah Dust Right:Seared diver scallop, pickled beet carpaccio, arugula salad. (photo by Desiree Espada)

Dee and D'Andra Simmons with Chef Abraham Salum. (photo by Desiree Espada)
Jamie Abbott, Jenny Block, Steven Doyle, Steven Lindsey, and Rod Orta. (photo by Desiree Espada)
Left: Brandy Taylor and D'Andra Simmons Left: Abraham Salum addresses his fans. (photo by Desiree Espada)

New Yorkers are in for a treat. Abraham and his staffed produced their best game last night. Let’s hope to see these dishes on the menu as specials at Salum and Komali. Here is the full menu.

Abraham Salum Menu for James Beard House

Passed Hors d’Oeuvres

Seafood Tostada with mini Epazote and Aguachile

Caprino Royale Texas Goat Cheese, Chile Morita, Buttered

Texas Toast, Piloncillo Syrup

Country Butter Biscuit, Chicken Fried Chicken and

Wildflower Honey with Chili Flakes

Lebanese Style Arancini stuffed with Lamb

and Za’atar Vinaigrette

Piatelli torrontes 2009,  Argentina

First Course

Chilled Cream of Corn Demitasse, Whipped Queso Fresco Cream,

Huitlacoche Fritter and Manzano Chili Oil

Antinori Scalabrone Rose 2010, Italy

Second Course

Seared Diver Scallop, Pickled Beet Carpaccio, Arugula Salad

and Vanilla Chipotle Vinaigrette

Craggy Range kidnappers Chardonnay 2010, New Zealand

Third Course

Oven Roasted Sea Bass,  Pumpkin Bisque, Shaved Brussel Sprout

and Spanish Chroizo Saute, Dukkah Dust

Erath Estate Pinot Noir 2008, Willamette Valley Oregon

Fourth Course

Braised Pork Jowls with Piloncillo and Pasilla Chile, Potato

and Sweet Potato Hash, Mache Tomato Salad

Polus Tempranillo 2006, Spain

Dessert

Mango Bread Pudding Mexican Style with Prickly Pear Sauce

And Queso Cotija Ice cream

Mcpherson Viognier 2009, Texas

4 comments on “Abraham Salum Previews James Beard House Dinner He Will Serve in New York

  1. Anthony Bourdain wrote a scathing story on the James Beard Foundation. Elizabeth Manuel reviewed it:

    Bourdain’s rancour is saved for the real enemy—restaurant critics (Alan Richman), pretentious purveyors of organic produce (Alice Waters), the top executive of the Food Network (Brooke Johnson) and moribund food institutions, aka known as ‘old fuckers’ (James Beard House). Bourdain describes how Matt Moran was invited to prepare a meal for the Beard Foundation. At enormous personal expense, Moran flew over to New York with the best of Australian seafood, meat, cheese and wines, along with his staff. On being summoned to the dining room after the meal, the chef was not praised for his efforts, but merely asked why there was no kangaroo or koala on the menu.

    I hope Salum receives a more gracious reception.

  2. Having been to the James Beard House with numerous chefs, I find the staff, dinner guests, and media quite gracious and appreciative of the tremendous effort. Perhaps Chef Moran did not have the best advance man/woman.