The dining area of a ritzy restaurant — in this case Rozelle Court, the Renaissance-inspired Italian courtyard–themed space in the heart of Kansas City’s palatial Nelson-Atkins art museum — usually houses a few tables and a spot for a live musician under its vaulted ceiling. But on Friday, November 10, guests in their finery squeezed in between the third-century fountain and the soaring marble columns to sample bite-sized delicacies and boozy refreshments. Under the eyes of a large papier-mâché head that looked like a god of the harvest, the James Beard Foundation hosted the final stop on its 10-city, six-week Taste America tour, a series of events meant to showcase culinary talent in foodie hotspots around the country.
The cocktail hour was arranged by past James Beard Award winners and local celebrity chefs Ryan Brazeal (Novel) and Dan Swinney (Lidia’s) and served Boulevard beer, Robert Mondavi wines, and cocktails from local darling Tom’s Town Distilling Co., including the Tom’s Town’s The People Are Thirsty Punch, a tasty mixture of vodka, St-Germain, and sparkling wine. Among the hors d'oeuvres, highlights were the local ranch beef with espresso rub, black garlic emulsion, parsnip purée, and arugula from the Fontaine Hotel; an “Esquite Asado” of grilled sweet corn with epazote butter, poblano rajas, cilantro, cotija cheese, Tabasco green sauce–spiced mayonnaise, chiles, and lime from Port Fonda’s Patrick Ryan; and smoked scallops with apple–miso butter, savory granola, and lime (like a scallops brown betty that miraculously works) from Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe in St. Louis.
The dinner opened with a bread service with Kerrygold pure Irish butter provided by Farm to Market Bread Co. The soup course featured an egg drop soup with dashi, wild rice, and crispy chicken skin, prepared by James Beard Award winner Debbie Gold of the American. Two protein dishes followed, a Blue Circle salmon with smoke, grapefruit–serrano jelly, celeriac, beet salt, and roe by Jonathan Pye of the Rozzelle Court Restaurant; and a Peking duck breast with carrot, guanciale, and green walnut by James Beard Award winner and the night’s visiting all-star, Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia in Chicago. Dessert was a quince shortcake with milk chocolate curd and bittersweet cocoa granola by Rye pastry chef Megan Garrelts. Dinner beverages were provided by Market Vineyards, Parisi Artisan Coffee, Robert Mondavi Winery, Stoller Family Estate, and Tom’s Town Distilling Co.
As dinner was served, Renee Kelly, owner and executive chef of Renee Kelly’s Harvest and host/producer of the TV show Harvest With Renee Kelly, hosted a live auction of items like tickets to the James Beard Awards in Chicago and a private dinner for eight planned and prepared by Carlos Falcon, founder of beloved local Mexican seafood restaurant Jarocho.
A portion of the night’s proceeds went to the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America Scholarship Fund.