An airplane ride to New York City is the usual prerequisite for a James Beard Foundation dinner. But lucky locals got to enjoy the treat without the trip Oct. 17 and Oct. 18, when chef/proprietor Jose Martinez, of Maison Blanche on Longboat Key, recreated the dinner he prepared at the foundation in June.
Over the two evenings, more than 100 guests enjoyed Martinez’ “French Elegance” menu, an unabashedly sublime application of culinary artistry to five courses with wine pairings from Frederick Wildman and Sons. Asked to name their favorite, guests named virtually every item on the menu.
Diners celebrated the tomato confit with tiny, individual leaves from a baby Brussels sprout for its uniquely intense tomato flavor. The smoked haddock hors d’oeuvres came in for more than its fair share of applause, as did the foie gras and duck pie with wine sauce. The almond meringue topping the Florida lemon tart was exceptional.
Among the wines, several (including yours truly) particularly favored the Pol Roger Brut Reserve. And raves included, “For a creative eating experience, this is it in Sarasota”; “He’s an artist”; and simply, “The best in town.”
For a chef to be invited to present a dinner at the James Beard Foundation is a form of recognition in and of itself. The foundation is a nonprofit created in honor of the great champion of American food to “celebrate, nurture and preserve America’s diverse culinary heritage and future.”
Based on recommendations received and reviewed by both a programming staff and a volunteer programming committee of food professionals, it invites highly regarded chefs to serve a dinner at its headquarters in the Greenwich Village townhouse where James Beard lived for three decades.
This was Martinez’s first such event but not his first connection to the foundation; he was a semi-finalist for its Best Chef-South award in 2010, and he underwrites a James Beard Foundation culinary scholarship.
The French Elegance menu
Smoked haddock with daikon radishes and shallot vinaigrette
Green apple crystalline with creamy blue cheese
Oyster Kromesties with julienned vegetables and savory dressing, Champagne Pol Roger brut
Green asparagus soup with baby artichokes and fava beans, Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2011
Tomato confit, Brussels sprouts and potato crisp, Olivier Leflaive Meursault 2010
Pan-seared rouget with cauliflower puree, hazelnuts and Kalamata olives, Domaine Faiveley Mercurey Clos De Mygland Premier cru 2010
Hudson Valley foie gras and duck pie with savory wine sauce, Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Domaine De Thalabert 2009
Florida lemon tart with almond meringue and raspberry coulis, Jaboulet Muscat beaumes de Venise 2009
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