Meanwhile, back in New York. I had decided that we were not going to try to show off when we had our evening at the Jame Beard Foundation. We were just going to be ourselves. We chose our menu from our regular repertoire, using the concept of “seasonal” a little loosely to allow us to feature things that are favorites with our clientele. June isn’t an R month for instance, but our fried oysters are so popular and easy to serve that they seemed like a must. It was also later than I would generally serve a corned ham, but that turned out to be the most discussed item on the menu.
It took some doing to persuade my line cooks to come along. They have day jobs and wives and they view the food world as a source of employment, not of celebrity or of glamour. But they like to see me beg and were eventually persuaded. Once I had my staff I quit worrying. I knew they could do anything anywhere. They all have been with me since they were kids. Just as I suspected, it took Hector about half an hour to scope out the kitchen and come up with a game plan. By scribbling notes along the margin of the menu he was able to produce a work plan for the day. We had to locate the pots, pans and equipment, figure out the stoves and ovens, decide the order of preparation and who would do what where. Shannon divided his time between preparing the bar and helping us with food. My sisters divided theirs prepping food, taking picture and running errands.
We arrived at Beard House at about eight in the morning. You only get one day. Thankfully my good friend Elizabeth Karmel had let me keep things overnight in the freezer of her nearby restaurant Hill Country. We took our whole crew there for dinner.
The next day flew by. Of course we had to run to store constantly, even though we had arrived in New York with two packed vans.
Shannon had planned the wines and cocktails in what I though was a delightful way. We started with our signature frozen mint julep and Mardi Gras champagne cocktails. The evening ended with sparkling strawberry rose cocktails.
Custom at the House dictates a course of passed hor d’oeuvres. We used Celebrity Dairy chevre, our mango and watermelon salads served “en brochette”, devilled eggs and of course, chicken liver mousse.
People were seated all over the building in various dining rooms. The sit down courses began. Fried oysters with garlic mayonnaise, green peach salad, softshelled crabs with basil and garlic, plus our purple and orange slaws, corned ham stuffed with collards, banana pudding and honeysuckle sorbet.
Our guests included friends from Chapel Hill, lots of North Carolinians who live in New York, some of my New York food friends and membership of the foundation. Our efforts were well received. My cooks were flawless. I’ll never get over how fantastic they were. As we cleaned up afterward, they managed to cook all the leftovers for themselves and the house staff to have a quick late supper.