James Beard Foundation’s Taste America® Climbs to the Top of the Space Needle in SeattleMaggie Borden
October 06, 2015
This past weekend, Taste America, the James Beard Foundation’s annual ten-city epicurean tour, landed in the Pacific Northwest for a weekend of exclusive culinary events including a collaborative fundraising dinner, cooking demos, artisanal tastings, and book signings.
Several hundred Seattleites gathered at the Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass, where some of the city’s top culinary talent showcased their skills against the backdrop of Elliot Bay. The evening began with an elevated tasting reception high up in the Skyline level of the Space Needle, where guests enjoyed bites from Zoi Antonitsas (Westward), Thomas Kollasch (Chihuly Garden and Glass / Collections Café), Jay Blackinton (Hogstone’s Wood Oven), Eric Donnelly (RockCreek), and James Beard Award Winners Maxime Bilet (Imagine Food Innovation Group) and Eric Tanaka (Tom Douglas Restaurants). The region’s mix of natural bounty and high tech took edible form as guest enjoyed rustic courses like Antonitsas’s grilled octopus with tzatziki, olive, and tomato salad alongside Bilet’s modernist cappuccino of roots and fungi.
After the reception, guests were treated to a special after-hours tour of the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which led them through darkened rooms filled with the artist’s luminescent works before ending at the banquet hall, where tables were laid out beneath the museum’s famous chandeliers. The special collaborative dinner paired Taste America All-Star Tyler Florence with Local Star JBF Award winner Thierry Rautureau, and the duo assembled a surf and turf combination of baked Copper River salmon with herbed hazelnut gremolata, caramelized salsify, savory apple purée, and curry butter (Rautureau) and Anderson Ranch lamb loin with cauliflower mousse, chile–date jam, and crispy sweetbreads (Florence). Local flavor rounded out the evening, as host chef Jeff Maxfield kicked off the dinner with an indulgent bowl of sweet corn soup with Dungeness crab, chanterelles, and lamb bacon, and pastry chef Neil Robertson closed with an elegant parfait of milk chocolate crémeux with apricot compote, earl grey mousse, and chocolate crumble.
The next day the action moved to Sur La Table in Kirkland, where Rautureau entertained guests with a high-energy demonstration of his recipe for Penn Cove mussels with leeks and saffron, imparting his wisdom regarding cooking and beyond: “God gave us two hands: one to cook, and one to drink.” JBF Award winner Maxime Bilet took the floor next, applying his trademark cerebral approach to the classic dish of French onion soup. Bilet discussed both the chemistry of cooking as well as the future of food, and how modernist techniques can help to feed the world of the future. After his demo, Bilet stayed to field questions and sign copies of his cookbooks, while guests enjoyed free tastings of lamb and kefir throughout the store.
The James Beard Foundation's Taste America tour is off to Boston and New Orleans next weekend. Future stops will be made in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Learn more about Taste America at jbftasteamerica.org and follow the tour at #JBFTasteAmerica on Twitter and Instagram.