There was a sense of brimming anticipation and excitement at the Langham Hotel in Boston’s Financial District on Friday, October 27. The reason? James Beard Foundation’s 4th annual Taste America tour was celebrating its stop in Boston. This year’s Taste America tour kicked off at an invite-only reception at the historic James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village on August 3, with honorary All-Star chef Tom Colicchio in attendance.
Since then, the participating American cities have been announced and Boston finds itself in good culinary company with Charleston, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco, and the Twin Cities.
True to all Taste America proceedings, on the evening of the 27th, the Langham Hotel was prepped for a stellar pre-dinner reception featuring dishes by Boston-area culinary stars. Among some of the stellar dishes were Michael Scelfo’s king crab with black rice and brown butter aïoli and Irene Li’s unique take on Asian pork sausage.
Of course, what all the guests were really waiting for was the dinner itself and the opportunity to sit alongside some of the culinary talent. Large-format dinners with many guests are very difficult to execute: proper food temperatures, the choreography behind setting and clearing plates, and serving diners their food within a precise time window, all while dodging excitable guests, is a logistical feat of epic proportion. The skill and precision of Taste America Boston team was apparent throughout the evening as each of the above details was expertly executed.
The menu for the evening was bold and balanced. Taste America All-Star John Besh was the guest chef for the evening. Alongside his unique New Orleans–inspired dishes were numbers by Boston’s own Ana Sortun, the Langham’s Mark Sapienza and a special hors d’oeuvre conceptualized by Stephen Gerike, director of the National Pork Board. Todd Lipman, sommelier extraordinaire, paired each dish with a thoughtful and expressive wine, enhancing the entire experience.
Other chefs honored and present that evening were James Beard Award winner Susan Regis and Peter Mackenzie of Shepard, Karen Akunowicz of Myers and Chang, head bartender of Capo Kevin Mabry, and the Pearl Nantucket’s Seth and Angela Raynor. Jenny Johnson, two-time Emmy winner and producer and co-host of NESN’s Dining Playbook, emceed the evening’s live auction with style and pizzazz. The event raised impressive funds for James Beard Foundation programming, including its scholarship program.
The overall sense of being a part of something special was palpable all evening long. Since 1986 the James Beard House has been a driving force in America’s culinary culture. Showcasing this country’s ever-evolving cuisine and strengthening support within the culinary industry are what make this organization so unique. It is also the fabric of America’s food scene, the very taste of America.