About once per year, something called the Celebrity Chef Tour makes a stop in the Seattle area. A benefit for the James Beard Foundation, it’s been held in recent years at the Columbia Tower Club, with the host chef opening up the kitchen for one or more guest chefs to wow an audience of appreciative eaters.
This past weekend, the Heathman Hotel hosted the event (the Columbia Tower Club is going through renovations), and the trip to Kirkland—even with the 520 bridge closed—was well worth it. Three chefs were local: host Brian Scheehser of Trellis, Holly Smith of Café Juanita, and Ethan Stowell of, well, Ethan Stowell Restaurants. (His list is getting too long to type!) Joining them were Justin Aprahamian of Sanford in Milwaukee, and Naomi Pomeroy (who recently won Feast Portland’s Sandwich Invitational) of Beast in Portland.
These all-stars started the evening by sending out some incredible passed hors d’oeuvres during the reception, including Holly Smith’s sea urchin and whipped lardo on pumpernickel crostini with lime and chili. Urchin and pork fat? Two of my favorite things!
And then each did a dinner plate, with Scheehser’s pastry chef, Sandra Cook, contributing dessert. The spectacular meal went from crab to foie gras to salmon to pork belly to beef tenderloin, with ingredients donated by the likes of Snake River Farms, Pacific Seafood, and Hudson Valley Foie Gras. (Scheehser invited the other chefs to his 10-acre Woodinville farm, where he harvests fruits, vegetables, and herbs for his restaurant’s menu.) Each course came with a chef-selected wine pairing; Chateau Ste. Michelle’s Late Harvest Chenin Blanc paired with the lemon sage flan my favorite.
With ticket sale proceeds going to the James Beard Foundation, this was dinner for a cause. As Stowell told the crowd, the Beard Foundation is not only a vehicle of recognition for established chefs (the Beard Awards are the Oscars of the culinary field), but it also provides support for the industry through educational initiatives, scholarships, and the like. Given the soaring quality of the meal he and his fellow chefs prepared this night, it makes sense to support an organization which ensures that future chefs will create their own culinary masterpieces and thrive in the restaurant world, sharing their passion and products with those of us lucky enough to partake.
To keep posted on future events in the area, follow the Celebrity Chef Tour on Twitter or Facebook. And for a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the dinner, including a look at all the hors d’oeuvres, dinner courses, and desserts, check out the photos that follow.
Holly Smith’s sea urchin and whipped lardo on pumpernickel crostini with lime and chili – my first bite at the Celebrity Chef Tour dinner, and my favorite of the passed hors d’oeuvres.
A close second as my favorite hors d’oeuvre: Brian Scheehser’s curried prawns with Walla Walla onion marmalade.
Headcheese pot-au-feu en gelee with horseradish mousseline, by Justin Aprahamian.
Naomi Pomeroy’s caramelized fig with foie gras mousse.
Ethan Stowell’s butternut squash soup with walnut oil and creme fraiche.
The table is set, with many wine glasses previewing what’s ahead.
On to the dinner plates: Smith’s momentary meandering into the world of molecular gastronomy means Alaskan red king crab with green apple sorbetto and crab butter powder. I had this dish a few years ago, and it’s still just as delicious!
Aprahamian’s smoked foie gras with pickled plums, marinated fennel, and plum hibiscus reduction – interesting ingredient interactions.
Scheehser and his crew prepare the salmon plate.
Scheehser’s pepper-crusted house-cured wild salmon with apple brandy splash, pepper rosemary grissini, and golden russert apples from his farm – a nice “fresh” plate.
Perhaps my favorite of the main dishes: Naomi Pomeroy’s caramelized pork belly with heirloom vegetable succotash. (I learned that one of the keys to this dish is the combination of maple syrup and 30 year old balsamic vinegar.)
Stowell and the celebrity chefs start plating the beef dishes.
Stowell’s beef tenderloin with artichoke puree, baby artichokes, chanterelle mushrooms, and red wine reduction – as melt-in-your-mouth delicious as the beef was, I also enjoyed the supporting cast of vegetables.
A mainstay at Trellis (and what I always order for dessert when I’m there): lemon sage flan with sage-infused syrup, lemon sage tuile, and candied lemon.
To finish: a selection of cookies, with chocolate dipping sauce.