Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Night to Remember: James Beard's 2009 Best Chef in the South Stirs up Mississpi Magic

Steve & I with a Magnum of Taittinger Rosé !
As I alluded to in my previous post and as part of my "research," Steve & I attended one of Boca Bacchanal's Vintner Dinners last Friday night. The dinner was hosted by our friends Joyce and Thom DeVita at their beautiful home in East Boca Raton. Joyce has a fabulous cooking school cleverly named "The JOYce of Cooking" and is an excellent Chef in her own right. Tonight's meal; however, was being prepared by one of Boca Bacchanal's featured Chefs, Chef John Currence of Oxford Mississippi's City Grocery Restaurant.

Chef Currence was the recipient of the 2009 James Beard Award for "Best Chef of the South." As you may recall, "Savor the Moment" won a James Beard award in 2001. A New Orleanian by birth, Chef Currence began cooking in Chapel Hill, NC at Crooks Corner. It was here he began his training in the unusual cross of classic French technique and traditional Deep Southern American cuisine. After returning to New Orleans and holding positions at Gautreau's and with the well-known Brennan family, Chef Currence decided to open City Grocery. He has since expanded and opened two other establishments including Bouré, an upscale, full service family concept, and Big Bad Breakfast, an ingredient-driven breakfast concept and smokehouse. After reading about his accomplishments and unique cooking style, I was very excited to finally sample our fabulous menu!

Bernard Portet, me & Chef John Currence

We were also fortunate to have two Vintners providing the wines for our evening: Champagne Taittinger of Reims, France and Clos du Val of Napa, California (we were really roughing it). As I mentioned in my last post, Champagne Taittinger was represented by Clovis Taittinger while Clos Du Val was represented by Winemaker and Co-Founder Bernard Portet. Portet has been making wine in the Napa Valley since 1972 and was one of the first to recognize the potential of the then-undiscovered Stags Leap District. Portet’s old-world approach to winemaking combined with Napa Valley fruit is the essence of Clos Du Val’s approach to creating classic estate-style wines of balance, elegance and complexity. You also might be surprised to learn Clos Du Val wines are some of the best "placed" wines in Hollywood! They have appeared in episodes of The Sopranos, Desperate Housewives, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Will & Grace as well as feature films including Fever Pitch, 21 Grams and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (one of my favorite movies!). I was fortunate enough to be seated next to Mr. Portet during dinner. He was smooth, approachable and memorable - much like his remarkable wines.

After a lovely Champagne reception with some delicious passed hors d'oeuvres, we dined alfresco in the DeVita's beautiful, outdoor garden. We were blessed with some of our perfect South Florida weather with just a slight chill in the air to remind us it was still winter after all. The evening flowed beautifully with our winemakers giving toasts and speaking about their respective wines when each dish was served. The 5-course dinner consisted of innovative dishes that highlighted Chef Currence's signature style. My favorite dish was the Crispy Pork Belly with Bourbon Molasses Glaze topped with Peanut Butter Dust (pictured) - what's not to love?! I have included the menu here for your review (prepare yourself - it's a GOOD one):

Pickled Deviled Eggs, Caviar & Country Ham Dust
Absinthe Marinated Oysters, Celery, Parsley & Shallot
Seared Pork Rillettes with Pepper Jelly
Champagne Taittinger Brut La Française NV
Champagne Taittinger Prelude Grand Cru NV
Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rose NV

Dinner Menu
Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc 1998
Seared Diver Scallop, marinated Cucumber, Sweet Corn Coulis, Lardon, Mango Vinegar
Clos Du Val Ariadne, 2007
Medallions of 18 Hour Butter-Braised Duck Breast, Sweet Potato Puree,
Worcestershire Syrup, Okra Powder
Clos Du Val Stags Leap District Cabernet, 2005
Country Ham-Wrapped Lamb Loin, Caramelized Turnips and Sweet Onion,
Pickled Grapes, Lamb Demi-Glace
Domaine De Nizas AOC Rouge, 2006
Crispy Pork Belly, Bourbon/Molasses Glaze, Peanut Butter Dust
Clos Du Val Stags Leap District Cabernet Franc, 2006
Balsamic-Compressed Louisiana Strawberries, Cornmeal Shortcake, Sabayon
Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rose en Magnum, 2000

Needless to say it was quite an evening! This weekend we are experiencing some serious Boca Bacchanal withdrawal but, somehow, we'll manage! Many thanks to everyone involved in creating such a magical evening, especially our hosts Joyce & Thom DeVita - we are already looking forward to next year! Cheers!


  1. S - This looks like a luxurious and culinary star-studded evening! I adore the classic and elegant Bordeasu style of Clos Du Val wines. It looks like an amazing evening!!!

  2. So yum! What a great menu and I agree with Christine!

    Hey we had a magnum of Stelling Fariente Cab last Christmas, it was worth every drop! His brother brought it back from Napa, and our last name, well was till the vintner added his first name now, lol

    Hey in just three weeks I will be in Florida! Deep sea fishing on a friends boat, and even though I have to help clean and cook, I will 'wine' in a good way!

  3. What a wonderful meal and event. I was drooling reading over the menu!

  4. Happy early Birthday! What fabulous meal and wine combination will you be enjoying on your special day?

  5. What a wonderful evening :)
    *kisses* HH

  6. Ohmy..sounds like an enchanting affair.
    The menu sounds like something from a movie..
    loved the whole post..
    xo bj

  7. Hubby and I have been to City Grocery on several occasions. It's a three-hour drive for us, so it's a special event...but oh so worth it. I love that Currence often uses local ingredients from local vendors. Your evening sounds phenomenal.

  8. What an amazing evening! Thanks to your wonderfully descriptive write-up I felt like I was there. The pork belly with Bourbon molasses and peanut butter dust is making my head spin.


Related Posts with Thumbnails