The James Beard Foundation Rolls Into Kansas City On Its Tour Through America

Shoes polished. Suit pressed. It was a night where one dressed to impress as we rubbed elbows with some of the nation's top chefs, including many Kansas City local favorites. As Kansas City's epicures strolled into the Hilton President, we were greeted with happy smiles and empty wine glasses (not for long).

The night began with a cocktail hour that was sure to rival that of the New York and LA food scene. My glass was filled with a delicious cabernet from Washington State Wine and my other hand balanced Kick-Ass Rice with pork belly, poached egg, dashi, and fresh herbs, courtesy of James Beard Award winner, Debbie Gold. It was a spectacular way to start the night.

From there I made my way to a charcuterie layout whose beauty was only rivaled by works of Michelangelo and da Vinci. The ladies at Green Dirt Farms were definitely a favorite at the cocktail hour with a large assortment of cheeses, meats, nuts, and an array of dried fruits and vegetables.

From there my glass was topped off once again but this time with a Malbec from Washington State Wine. This Malbec went perfectly with my favorite small dish of the night. Renee Kelly stole the cocktail hour with her dish, Duck Duck Goose. The dish was a cured duck breast with slow-roasted confit leg, foie gras, truffle mousse, herbed amaranth, smoked chipotle tabasco, and dark berries. It was an explosion of flavor and perfectly balanced texture.

As I continued my way around the room, I picked up a Tank 7 from Boulevard Brewing Co and made my way over to Joe West where I partook in veal sweetbread cannelloni with uni emulsion, fried leeks, crispy prosciutto, and Minus 8 vinegar. If this is a preview of what is to come at Joe's new restaurant, I look forward to the opening of Stock Hill. I made my way upstairs and discovered Howard Hanna from the The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange Kansas City serving up Missouri trout sardines with Tabasco deviled egg puree, fried hominy, Show-Me hackleback caviar, and micro-arugula. Delicious.

With a belly full of delicious drinks and amazing food, I made my way up to the 10th floor of the Hilton President. The ballroom was bustling with excitement as everyone eagerly searched for their tables and prepared for the night's main event to begin. The emcees began that night by thanking the Benefit Co-Chairs, Danny O'Neil (The Roasterie), Steven Pauwels (Boulevard Brewing Co), Stacie Prosser (Kansas City Business Journal), and Jake Reid (Sporting Kansas City). After a standing ovation, it was time to begin.

Alejandro Diaz of the Hilton President began the four-course dinner with a smoked beef tongue pastrami with Spanish octopus, parsnip puree, black garlic, and caraway crumble. It was paired with a Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Red blend.

Next to deliver their culinary genius was Colby Garrelts, James Beard Award winner and chef-owner of Bluestem. His olive oil-poached halibut with hearts of palm, pickled summer vegetables, and almonds was perfectly paired with a Stoller Family Estate Chardonnay, Dundee Hills.

The main dish of the night was a crowd favorite served up Gavin Kaysen, James Beard Award winner and chef-owner of Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis. His tamarind-glazed pork chop with delicata squash, puffed rice, toasted peanuts, and pork jus was paired with a Boomtown by Dusted Valley Merlot.

The evening's dinner culminated with a sweet dish served up by Nick Wessemann, pastry chef at The American Restaurant. His caramelized white chocolate with coconut, banana, rum, and macadamia nuts made the perfecting ending to a great night of culinary genius.

Thank you to the Johnson County Community College for allowing me to join their table and thank you to the James Beard Foundation for selecting Kansas City to be a part of this yearly culinary tradition.

Learn more about Taste America at and follow the tour at #JBFTasteAmerica on Twitter and Instagram.