For chefs, being invited to cook at New York’s James Beard House is like the Oscar is to Hollywood actors.
It’s a badge of honor any chef proudly wears, this opportunity to be in the spotlight at the focal point of American regional cookery.
An American chef and food writer, James Beard is recognized by many as the father of American gastronomy.
After Beard’s death in 1985, Julia Child had the idea to preserve his home in New York City as the gathering place it was throughout his life. Peter Kump, a former student of Beard’s and the founder of the Institute of Culinary Education, spearheaded the effort to purchase the house and create the James Beard Foundation.
Beard’s renovated brownstone is located at 167 West 12th St., in the heart of Greenwich Village. It is North America’s only historical culinary center, a place where Foundation members, the press and the general public are encouraged to savor the creations of both established and emerging chefs from across the country.
More than 20 dinners, lunches and workshops are held each month at the James Beard House to showcase culinary artists from around the world.
Last year, three Napa Valley chefs cooked up a storm at the Beard House as part of a wine-related program sponsored by Napa Valley Vintners. They included Angela Tamura, chef/partner at Napa’s ZuZu; restaurateur/chef Greg Cole, owner of Celadon and Cole’s Chop House; and Max Duley, a well-liked local chef who’s held culinary posts at both CIA Greystone and Peju Province Winery.
“I had the good fortune to pair two dishes with CrauforD Wines, thanks to Juliana Corley,” says Tamura, “and they were well received.” She said the entire food and wine pairing was a hit with dinner guests as well as Beard House staff.
So, Tamura has been invited back to prepare a dinner of her own, scheduled to take place Thursday night.
She’s put a menu together that begins with some of the tapas offerings from the ZuZu bill of fare. To be served at a pre-dinner reception are Boquerones: Spanish White Anchovies and Hard Boiled Egg on Grilled Ciabatta; Rabbit Rillette with Homemade Roasted Anaheim Pepper Mustard; Ceviche of Wild Striped Corvina with Red Crimson Popped Corn; plus Lamb Albondigas with Goat’s Milk Yogurt and Hummus.
The boquerones dish has become a fixture on the ZuZu menu, notes Tamura. “It is one of three or four items that we cannot take off the menu for fear of a lynching. I wanted to bring some of our signature dishes to New York and this paired wonderfully with the Brut Rose from Domaine Carneros. Don’t be scared of the anchovies — they are delicious.”
The dinner’s first course consists of what Tamura is calling “Tres Tapas de Cebollitas” — Roasted Vegetable and Sweet Spring Onion Soup, Romaine Hearts with Fatted Calf Salame and Fried Shallots along with Grilled Goat Cheese Bocadillo with Red Onion Jam. Wine paired with this course is Diogenes 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, a wine made by the chef’s husband.
Second of the six courses is Pan Seared Salmon with a Warm Potato Salad, Sautéed Pea Shoots and Wild Mushroom and Chorizo Broth, served with Whetstone 2006 Pleasant Hill Pinot Noir.
Paired with Lorca Gary’s Vineyard 2002 Sonoma County Pinot Noir will be Liberty Duck with Grilled Spring Onions, Quinoa and Pedro Ximenez Sherry Vinaigrette.
A highly touted 2005 Favia Cerro Sur Cabernet Franc has been selected to complement Grilled Niman Ranch Ribeye marinated with Harissa and Pomegranate Molasses, served with Roasted Vegetable and Piquillo Pepper Puree.
The 2005 Robert Sinskey Vineyards Late Harvest Pinot Gris is paired with an artisanal cheese, with the dinner concluding on a sweet note — Triple Chocolate Pot de Crème with Pedro Ximenez Whipped Cream.
Tamura has been a member of the ZuZu culinary team for five years, most of which she served as executive chef. The restaurant has just entered its seventh year, with Tamura and her partners — Mick Salyer, Mark Elicker and Craig Coffer — serving exceptional tapas to a hungry public daily.
The chef launched her culinary career some 15 years ago in the Boston area, working with noted New England chef Jody Adams. She also served as chef de cuisine at Bistro Don Giovanni shortly after relocating to wine country.
When Tamura and her team returns from New York, items from the Beard menu will show up, two or three at a time, on the ZuZu menu throughout April, the chef promises.
Located on Main Street between Second and Third, ZuZu is open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. on Friday. Saturday hours are 4 to 11 p.m., Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. Reservations are accepted only for large parties.