I woke up this morning with visions of corn curry and halibut dancing in my head. Last night was Indy's first James Beard Foundation dinner at Cerulean and all I can say is it was phenomenal.
Anyone lucky enough to eat those eight dishes, sip on those eight glasses of wine and share an evening with a crowd like last night's isn't going to forget that meal anytime soon.
We we're immediately met with a sign of the quality of food for the evening from the people at Pig's Tale. The soon-to-open charcuterer presented a few boards of delicious, cured meats along with stone ground mustard, pickles and locally-foraged, pickled mushrooms.
After an hour of chatting, raving about the 'nduja and sipping on cocktails from Starlight Distillery it was time for the main event.
I'm not going to exhaust you with a detailed description of the next four hours, but it was truly a magical experience. It started with a spectacular dish from Cerulean's own Alan Sternberg. It was a simple dish of tomato tartare, camembert cheese, espelette pepper and a yeast roll. It was a perfect step into the meal; the tomato was bright, the subtle spiciness from the pepper was a perfect balance to the sweetness of the bread and the cheese tied it all together (literally and figuratively).
The Roeder Estate Brut Rosé paired deftly with the dish and gave an idea of what was to come throughout.
Some other highlights of the meal were Kevin Ashworth's aged beef with Carolina rice, koji, pear and squash puree. The beef was charred with a nice smoky, umami flavor and was one of the better paired dishes of the evening with the Chappellet Mountain Cuvee making the dish even better, which is what a pairing should do.
Cerulean's Pete Schmutte helped end the meal on a high note with the Grilled Goat's Milk Profiterole. It was hard not to lick the plate clean of the herbaceous thyme honey and despite the fact that I was stuffed beyond reason I could have made my way through a dozen of these babies.
But, the dish of the night was undoubtedly Chef Sternberg's second creation. It was an Alaskan Halibut (which had been caught fresh and supplied by Sitka Salmon Shares) in a corn green curry with quince, chanterelles and sliced truffle. This dish was immaculate, everything a dish could ever dream to be. It's the type of dish that bards would have written songs and poems about, and yet, I don't even believe Virgil could have described it in its perfection, and he did a hell of a job describing pesto.
The curry was a perfect amount of heat, the halibut meaty and fresh, the truffle a truffle; they all came together in a miasma of love and goodness and spiciness and when I thought it couldn't get better there was my glass of Riesling, a sweet nectar to balance out the whole dish.
It was perfect.
The evening ended with a standing ovation for the talented chefs of the evening and for the hand work of the dozens of suppliers, servers, cooks, and everyone involved. The night owes a lot to Audra Sternberg, who reached out to the Beard Foundation about hosting the event at Cerulean. The meal was a complete success and from the sounds of it the Beard Foundation representatives loved their taste of the Midwest.
Whether the chefs realize it or not, they helped put the Midwest at the top of peoples' minds. We are making amazing food here in the Midwest, in our city, in our kitchens. We have world class chefs that give a shit about food and where it comes from and what it all means. It's dinners like last night's that make me happy to be from the Midwest and to look at the road we're heading down with hope and excitement.