Wine on the Road
by Gregory D. McCluney
James Beard spotted in Woodstock (Georgia)?
Well, not exactly. Jim (as his close friends such as Julia Child called him), the famous author and chef, passed some time ago. But his famous townhouse, culinary education foundation and kitchens in the East Village of New York City were well represented recently in this Atlanta suburb at Vingenzo’s Neopolitan cuisine by Chef/Owner Michael Bologna.
Beard is considered by many food writers to be the father of American gastronomy. With his pioneering cook books and TV appearances, he introduced a new way of dining and entertaining to a post-war suburban America. His legacy, the James Beard Foundation and House in NYC remains the “Masters” of food and wine for America’s elite chefs and foodies. Being invited to cook as a guest chef is an honor coveted by all who cook professionally in America and beyond. This level of recognition can be the difference in many a chef’s professional career.
In the fall of 2011, Chef Bologna received the news he had been chosen to develop a menu (usually around six courses) for his night at the Beard house in December in New York City. The nominating process is never explained and remains confidential. But only a dozen or so chefs per month are invited to cook. Most bring the majority of their own ingredients, as well as several key kitchen staffers; enough to prepare for 60 or more guests. (Each guest pays around $120 for his seat; drinks and/or multiple wines are included, as are gratuities.) All this is in the name of fundraising for the House and its many educational programs and activities.
Beard established his cooking schools in 1955. An ironic twist to the planning and preparation of these gourmet experiences is the kitchen workplace, which is small and cramped – hardly the kind of super kitchens these chefs are accustomed to. This of course, adds to the challenge. The House does offer some culinary students to support the needs of each chef.
Vingenzo’s James Beard Menu
Chef Bologna prepared three appetizers and four courses plus dessert for his Beard House dinner guests:
Hors d’Oeuvres: Housemade Crudo, including Roasted Peppers, Citron della Senape (candied orange) with Black Pepper bread
White bean stew with sausage and kale
Asiago-encrusted baby artichokes with white anchovies
(All served with Candoni Prosecco DOC)
Dinner: Burrata (cheese) with preserved tomatoes, basil and arugula
(Luna Nuda Pinot Grigio 2010)
Osso Buco tortellini with gremolada and demi cream
(Castello D’Albola Chianti Classico DOCG 2007)
Pan-roasted halibut with Sicilian pistachio-mascarpone sauce
and butter-stewed baby root vegetables
(Principi di Butera Chardonnay, Sicilia 2009)
Braised Riverview Farms pork shoulder and crisp pork belly
with creamy polenta and glazed Cipollini compote
(Rocca di Montemassi Sassabruna 2008)
Dessert: Semplicemente in Bianco e Nero mozzarella di bufala with chocolate
glaze and chestnut-honey balsamic strawberries
(Candoni Muscato NV)
Several Beard Reprisal dinners are set for 2012 using the exact menu and wines served at the House. If you can’t go, I can highly recommend this restaurant for its changing and creative real Italian menu, Beard redeux or not. Contact them at 770-924-9133 in Woodstock or visit www.vingenzos.com for reservations or more information.
It’s a bit of a drive for most of us, but well worth the trip. After all, how many chefs are so demanding they fly their pizza flour and water in from Italy? Enough said.