On Friday, October 13, food lovers gathered for a Night of Culinary All-Stars at the luxe Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle. The event was part of the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America tour, which assembles the best regional chefs and James Beard Award winners to produce one unforgettable night of dining in 10 different cities.
Cocktail reception hors d’oeuvres ranged from a smoky, complex charred cabbage with crunchy sesame seeds from Josh Henderson of Huxley Wallace Collective, to a beet-cured wild salmon with bone marrow–roasted beets from Nathan Lockwood of Altura. (As Lockwood told the crowd, “We’re about to change a lot of people’s minds about beets.”) Rachel Yang of Joule, who recently published her cookbook My Rice Bowl, supplied delicious shrimp–bacon dumplings with an umami-rich mushroom XO sauce. Of particular note was an offering from Maximillian Petty of Eden Hill: chewy, hearty seeded sourdough from the excellent Sea Wolf Bakers, piled high with a fluffy dollop of lemony cod mousse and topped with a slice of pickled radish. The richness of the mousse was perfectly cut by a flourish of peppery microgreens.
Dinner was a similar parade of delights. Host chef Paul Shewchuk of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel presented a pickled beet and fig salad made with dreamy Humboldt Fog goat cheese and honey from the beehives he lovingly tends himself on the roof of the Fairmont. Crunch was provided in the form of some cunning savory quinoa granola “croutons.”
For the following course, Matt Dillon of Sitka & Spruce paired succulent, meaty King of Boletes mushrooms with sustainably caught Maldives tuna, which had been whipped to a silky, feather-light texture, with a rich, clean, sweet caramelized butter sauce to tie everything together. An earthy 2015 Stoller Family Estate Reserve Pinot Noir served as the perfect partner for the dish.
Next, for the main course, All-Star chef Ashley Christensen (of Poole’s Diner in Raleigh, North Carolina) showcased her signature spin on traditional Southern comfort food with a pot pie: toothsome greens, buttery beans, and meltingly tender morsels of braised short ribs, crowned by a golden, flaky round of pastry. The dish was paired with a deep, plummy red blend, Robert Mondavi’s 2014 Winery Maestro.
Finally, Canlis pastry chef Baruch Ellsworth capped off the evening with a whimsical dessert of caramel and chocolate, blanketed by a black wafer-thin sheet of tobacco that shattered into crisp shards with every bite of the creamy, buttery concoction.
Founded in 1986, the James Beard Foundation has awarded over $7 million in scholarships for culinary students over the years. The extravagant evening yielded more than $45,000, which will go to support the next generation of budding chefs and foster more of the same culinary innovation guests witnessed that night. Who knew philanthropy could be so delicious?