There was a sense of brimming anticipation and excitement at The Langham Hotel in Boston’s Financial District on Friday October 27th. The reason? James Beard Foundation’s 4th annual Taste of America Tour was celebrating its stop in Boston. This year’s Taste of America Tour kicked off at an invite-only reception at the historic James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich village on August 3rd with Tom Colicchio.
Since then, the participating American cities have been announced and Boston finds itself among top culinary company with Charleston, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco and the Twin Cities.
True to all Taste of America proceedings, on the evening of the 27th, the Langham Hotel was prepped for a stellar pre-dinner reception featuring dishes by each of the city’s James Beard Award winners. Among some of the stellar dishes were Michael Scelfo’s King Crab with black rice and brown butter aioli and Irene Li’s unique take on Asian pork sausage.
Of course, what all guests are really waiting for, is the dinner itself and the opportunity to sit alongside some of the star culinary talent. Large format dinners with many guests are very difficult to execute on. Proper food temperatures, the choreography behind setting and clearing plates and figuring out how to get all diners their food within a precise time window while negotiating with wine pairings and dodging the excitable guests is a logistical feat of epic proportion. The skill and precision of James Beard Foundation is apparent throughout the evening as each of the above details are expertly executed.
The menu for the evening was bold and balanced. Taste America All-star John Besh was the guest chef for the evening. Alongside his unique New Orleans’ inspired dishes, were numbers by Boston’s own Ana Sortun, The Langham’s Mark Sapienza and a special hors d’oeuvre conceptualized by Stephen Gerike, director of the National Pork Board. Todd Lipman, sommelier extraordinaire, paired each dish with a thoughtful and expressive wine, enhancing the entire experience.
Other chefs honored and present this evening were James Beard Award winner Susan Regis and Peter Mackenzie of Shepard, Karen Akunowicz of Myers and Chang, head bartender of Capo Kevin Mabry and The Pearl Nantucket’s, Seth and Angela Raynor. Jenny Johnson, two-time Emmy award winner and producer and co-host of NESN’s Dining Playbook emceed the evening’s live auction with style and pazazz and the whole evening ended up raising impressive numbers for the James Beard House’s food-focused programming.
The overall sense of being a part of something special was palpable all evening long. Since 1986 the James Beard House has been a driving force in the culinary culture in America. Showcasing the ever-evolving cuisine of the country while creating a strong bond and community of support and friendship are what make this organization so unique. This is also the stuff that is the fabric of America’s food scene…it is the very Taste of America.