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“I started baking when I was three years old — it just grabbed me. Cooking has always been my thing,” said JBF Award winner and Taste America All-Star Traci Des Jardins during the Boston leg of our 10-city tour. The lavish two-day event included a collaborative cocktail reception and dinner, as well as cooking demos and artisanal tastings.
The jam-packed affair was one of Boston’s hottest events this Columbus Day Weekend. Guests gathered at the lovely Langham hotel, where much of the city’s top culinary talent showcased their skills and local ingredients. The evening kicked off with a tasting reception featuring bites from JBF Award winners Tim Cushman of o ya, Tony Maws of Craigie on Main, and Ana Sortun of Oleana, along with Cassie Piuma of Sarma and Justin Shoults of Brine. With a focus on regional produce and expert technique, guests sampled pork belly reubens with kimchi Russian dressing from Maws, biscuits and gravy with smoked lamb shoulder from Piuma, cider-braised monkfish tail from Shoults, and much more.
Following the knockout reception, guests were seated in the Langham’s gilded ballroom for a collaborative dinner featuring Taste America All-Star Traci Des Jardins and Local Star Matt Jennings, along with the Langham’s own Mark Sapienza. Together, these top toques delighted palates with a menu that contrasted textures and temperatures using early fall ingredients. First up was Des Jardin’s rabbit terrine with chanterelle escabèche. Jennings’s vegetables and fruits with coppa, smoked pork fat, and malt vinegar emulsion came next. Des Jardin’s lamb shoulder and loin with panisse and salsa verde finished off the savory courses, and a frozen kefir intermezzo refreshed appetites. The final course of the evening was Sapienza’s baked Baldwin apple-spiced walnut cake with candy cap mushroom ice cream and apple jack caramel.
The next morning, Des Jardins and Maws were up and ready to go at Sur La Table, where they demonstrated two different yet delicious takes on lamb. First Des Jardins treated guests to a taste of the previous night’s dinner with warm grilled bread topped off with her chanterelle escabèche. She explained that escabèche is a French style of pickling that involves searing the main ingredient, noting that she frequently uses a sardine escabèche at her famed San Francisco restaurant, Jardinière. The award-winning chef then demoed perfectly roasted lamb racks and topped them with a tangy Italian salsa verde and seared cubes of polenta — another riff on one of her courses from the previous night.
Fellow JBF Award winner Maws took the floor next, making merguez lamb sliders seasoned with cumin, coriander, and caraway and finished with a dollop of spiced kefir sauce. The local chef divulged one of his pro tips for grinding meat: Make sure your meat is really cold — you can even put it in the freezer! If it’s not cold, you lose the nice crumbly texture that’s essential to a great burger. With great stories and tips for the home cook, these beloved chefs treated lucky food enthusiasts to a fantastic day of laughter and great bites.
The James Beard Foundation's Taste America tour is headed to Chicago and San Francisco next, followed by our last stop in Los Angeles. Learn more about Taste America at jbftasteamerica.org and follow the tour at #JBFTasteAmerica on Twitter and Instagram.