America's Classics: The Bright Star, Bessemer, Alabama

America’s Classics Award–winning restaurants have timeless appeal and are beloved in their regions for quality food that reflects the character of their community. Here is the final eatery that earned this prestigious distinction in 2010. A clump of feta, tucked in a salad of iceberg and cucumbers. A stipple of oregano on a broiled snapper fillet. At the Bright Star in Bessemer, Alabama, an old steel town southwest of Birmingham, the vestiges of Greece are few. Greek immigrants built the Bright Star, a vintage dining hall of intricately patterned tile floors, nicotine-patinaed woodwork, WPA-era murals of the old country, and brass chandeliers. The Bright Star opened in 1907. Descendants of Bright Star founding fathers—Tom Bonduris and his cousin Bill Koikos, natives of the farming village of Peleta in the mountainous Peloponnesus region —still work the floor. Jimmy Koikos, a septuagenarian, and brother Nicky, seven years his junior, are in charge now. The menu is an honest—and very old—fusion, Greek meets Southern, as interpreted by African American cooks: fried red snapper throats, house-cut from whole Gulf fish, are on the menu.

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Ask a Chef: What Would You Eat for Your Last Meal on Earth?

"Spaghetti with sea urchin and limpets, but only if I could gather them from the shores of Sicily. Otherwise, because it's my last day on earth and I don't care about cholesterol and blood pressure, I would want a four-pound aged steak with a large side of pommes soufflé." –Fortunato Nicotra, Felidia, NYC

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On the Menu: Catalan Food and Wine

Croquettes

Barcelona, the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, is well known for its vibrant markets and rich food culture. At Mercat (“market” in Catalan) and sister restaurant Mercat Negre, chefs Jalinson Rodriguez and Oriol Sala Colomer, along with wine director Carl Wisegart, capture this dynamic quality in their bold, regional Spanish cuisine. The Mercat crew will be cooking at the Beard House this Wednesday; check out their menu below. Hors d’Oeuvre Traditional Gazpacho Assorted Croquettas > Shrimp; Chicken; and Spinach Shrimp and Chorizo Skewers Salmon Ceviche with Avocado and Popcorn Dinner Sardine with Roasted Vegetables and Sherry Reduction Sautéed Wild Mushrooms with Fried Egg, Shoestring Potatoes, and Truffle Vinaigrette Monkfish with Summer Squash Romesco and Dried Fruit

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Recipe: Cauliflower Fritters

cauliflower fritters

Top Chef's Sam Talbot served these crunchy cauliflower fritters at his late-spring Beard House dinner. Creamy florets are puréed with honey and cream cheese, dredged in flour and panko, and fried to golden brown perfection. With a yield of two dozen fritters, this recipe makes enough for seconds—and thirds—at a small cocktail party.

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Eye Candy: Bluegrass State Dessert

strawberry, Kentucky brie, and black walnut cobbler with blackberry–buttermilk ice cream and bourbon-smoked sea salt

For a preview of our partnership with the World Equestrian Games, JBF rounded up a group of Kentucky chefs for an evening of sophisticated, traditional Southern fare. The team served this strawberry, Kentucky brie, and black walnut cobbler with blackberry–buttermilk ice cream and bourbon-smoked sea salt for dessert. See more photos of the dinner here.

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On the Menu: June 20 through June 26

Beard House dining room Here’s what’s happening at the Beard House and around the country next week:

Monday, June 21, 7:00 P.M. Savoy 20th Anniversary and Reunion It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago that Peter Hoffman opened Savoy in the heart of NYC’s Soho. At the time, the chef’s passion for seasonal, local cuisine was seen as eccentric; in hindsight it’s clear that Hoffman helped spark a gastronomic movement that has fundamentally changed the way America cooks. Celebrate this anniversary with a stellar cast of chefs and alumni. Tuesday, June 22, 6:30 P.M. Greens: Bowling Night The James Beard Foundation Greens are hitting the lanes. Join us for a night of bowling, good food, and fun times at Brooklyn Bowl, the hot new bowling alle

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