I did not know what to expect when I entered the James Beard House on Tuesday evening for the Kansas City Steak Feast. The chef was Charles d'Albaing from the restaurant Webster House in Kansas City, MO. Well, of course I was expecting steak, but the quality and preparation remained unknowns. I made my way to the backyard and was handed a glass of sparkling wine. Yes, I said backyard and yes the James Beard House is in downtown Manhattan, and yes I am jealous of said backyard. The sparkling wine, a Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs NV, was fabulous. This was going to be a very good evening.
I saw my friends Lee and Wendy and meandered over to join them. Their friend Deborah joined the group as we discussed the Big Apple BBQ and how awesome the sparkling wine is. Then the appetizers started appearing. From the buffalo stew served in a spoon, to the crispy pigs ear on a Johhny cake, to the short ribs and the venison with a blackberry chutney, each was tastier than the one before. We went on the try the next wine, a Grgich Hills Fume Blanc. Once again, the sommelier Kathy picked a winner. After going through a few more rounds of the appetizers, we hit the final wine. This was a Pinot Noir from Ayres in Oregon. It was another winner, especially with the venison. The cherry and other fruit flavors of the wine complemented the blackberry chutney perfectly. We were very excited to see how the dinner will unfold.
We made our way upstairs and searched for our respective tables. Soon, the first course arrived, a confit of pheasant. The first course continued the winning streak of the appetizers. The pheasant itself was very flavorful and the sides served with it were great, especially the sweet corn puree. The Alban Vineyards Viognier poured with it provided a perfect counterpoint to the dish.
The beef portion of the evening began with the next course, braised beef cheeks wrapped in fried zucchini. The fried zucchini added a nice textural contrast to the buttery soft beef cheeks. The Qupe Syrah worked very well with this plate.
We segued into a beef tenderloin with sweet potato hash, served with Dain Syrah. This paved the path for the last beef dish, a NY Strip with thumbelina carrots with a K Vintners Syrah. Both of these dishes proved that Chef d'Ablaing nows his way around a cow. The wine choices proved that sommelier Kathy has a direct line to Bacchus.
A rose sparkling wine from Gruet in New Mexico and a strawberry rhubarb crisp put the exclamation point on a excellent dinner. We made our way out of the house, everyone floating a little bit off the ground, buoyed by the joy of having just eaten a truly memorable meal.