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.
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.
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.
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
Chilled Cream of Corn Demitasse, Whipped Queso Fresco Cream,
Huitlacoche Fritter and Manzano Chili Oil
Antinori Scalabrone Rose 2010, Italy
Seared Diver Scallop, Pickled Beet Carpaccio, Arugula Salad
and Vanilla Chipotle Vinaigrette
Craggy Range kidnappers Chardonnay 2010, New Zealand
Oven Roasted Sea Bass, Pumpkin Bisque, Shaved Brussel Sprout
and Spanish Chroizo Saute, Dukkah Dust
Erath Estate Pinot Noir 2008, Willamette Valley Oregon
Braised Pork Jowls with Piloncillo and Pasilla Chile, Potato
and Sweet Potato Hash, Mache Tomato Salad
Polus Tempranillo 2006, Spain
Mango Bread Pudding Mexican Style with Prickly Pear Sauce
And Queso Cotija Ice cream
Mcpherson Viognier 2009, Texas