A Culinary Traveler's Dream Come True: Dining at the James Beard House, New York City ~ by M'Liss Hinshaw

When you are a guest in someone’s home, you try to be respectful. When you’re in the distinguished James Beard’s House, you are very respectful. It was nearly 7 p.m. and we were led into a plain brownstone with a simple plaque at the entrance stating it was the James Beard House.

James Beard was the catalyst for showing people how to cook American food at a time when TV dinners were all the rage. In 1946, he had the first cooking show on NBC. Never one to sit still with so much culinary knowledge to share, his prolific cookbooks and magazine articles dominated the cooking world from the 1940’s until his death in 1985. His word about cooking with locally grown fresh foods was regarded as gospel and people wanted to hear and read the truth about cooking. And still do to this day.

My early recollection about him was reading his writings in well-known food publications and daydreaming about preparing and eating the foods he knew well. At the time, I was doing my best to move beyond TV dinners and box mixes.

James Beard hosted cooking soirees complete with elegant entertaining in his Greenwich Village house and many famous people from the culinary world graced the kitchen. But, he also reached out to all levels of cooks by establishing cooking schools which operated for thirty years. His prominence carried on after his death when notable chefs such as Julia Child ensured his home became a living institution in his honor. The James Beard Foundation began, and his home lived on to be a vital centerpiece. The Foundation’s mission has remained the same, to honor and celebrate chefs and highlight America’s food culture for everyone.

Alpine flavored New Zealand Venison filet on white plate

Alpine flavored New Zealand venison filet served at James Beard House, New York

Chefs are invited to “perform” at the Beard House and the criteria for an invitation is secured by set guidelines one can find on the Foundation’s website. Chefs who are invited, are established in their culinary fields and well equipped to handle this extraordinary cooking venue. It is not for the lighthearted, but the experience gained is great. And the list of chefs hoping to be invited is long.

Many know of the coveted James Beard Awards which is a prestigious award bestowed on winners from categories such as restaurants, chefs, cookbooks, journalism and many other categories. The awards are separate from the invitation to cook at the Beard House. (The James Beard Awards are commonly referred to as the Oscars of the cooking world.).

Like clockwork, we were ushered through the living room and stepped into the kitchen. The kitchen was surprisingly small and numerous chefs moved around hot stoves, steaming pots and prep counters like a well-oiled machine. The chefs appeared unfazed with the demands of the dinner and politely acknowledged the 50 incoming diners.

We were asked to go to the outdoor garden patio, where it was a pleasant August evening. Before dinner, spritz choices of strawberry Amaro and spumante were generously poured into flute glasses. As I sipped the refreshing drink, my food tastings began.

Two female Plating Chefs finishing dishes to be served

Trays of Hors d’Oeuvre were gracefully brought to each person throughout the reception time. My memorable choices were smoked short rib tartare on marble rye bread and Chicharron style tomato and smoked trout roe.

A gentle nudging and it was time to walk up a small staircase where we were seated at assigned tables. A portrait of James Beard hung over the fireplace and on each side bookcases with his library. Tables and chairs filled the small rooms with draped white tablecloths and what used to be his step-up bedroom had a table for 4.

Conversations began among the eager diners as they introduced one another and within minutes, dinner was coming out of the kitchen. Service of each course was delivered with timely precision and I glanced at my printed menu to fully appreciate the sensory awakening from the plated foods.

Continued...

Read the full article which first appeared on M'Liss Travels, October 10, 2018. A portion of the article is reprinted here with the author's permission. All rights reserved.

Some article images by Jeffrey Gurwin, courtesy of the James Beard Foundation. Photos are from the “Amaro: A Bittersweet Love Story” dinner at the James Beard House.

M


M’Liss is a freelance travel writer from California, USA with a passion for discovering food served around the world. She likes to go behind the scenes and ask well-known chefs and mom-and-pop establishments about their love for cooking and which tasty foods are favorites. After retirement, she completed courses in travel writing and continued to attend seminars about social media to become an influencer. She’s always on the search for delicious and local foods wherever traveling takes her. Over and over, it’s the people preparing the food and those eating it which make the story more flavorful.

M’Liss is a native San Diegan who loves to bake and research recipes; it’s no wonder she can be spotted at old-time bakeries on her travels. She is a member of IFWTWA and Travel Massive San Diego. Besides her website, M'Liss Travels she frequently uses Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to share her stories. She is a regular contributor to Amateurtraveler.com, Honestcooking.com and Tripatini.com

"Traveling and experiencing many different kinds of foods during my travels is a main reason why I travel. Of course, experiencing the world is wonderful!" -- M'Liss Hinshaw

Why Join IFWTWA?

"When I was a beginning travel writer, I joined IFWTWA and was introduced to experienced writers. Members gave me solid advice when I asked for guidance and this helped me develop my professional skills. I have made lifelong friends through the organization and we support each others endeavors."

-- M'Liss Hinshaw
M'Liss Travels

 

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