When the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner was announced, it was one of those events I immediately knew I wanted to attend. And while the ticket price might seem like a splurge, when you get 10 courses of phenomenal food prepared by celebrated chefs, plus wine pairings, you realize it’s a total steal!
We started the evening by getting a glimpse at the entire group of chefs, who clearly all get along so well!
Then we headed into Urban Farmer for the big event. We started with a cocktail hour with signature cocktails, as well as local beer and wine. Matthew tried the interesting Salt-Acid-Fat-Heat, with Tito’s Vodka infused with house-grown chili, Ardberg 10 year scotch, lemon, rosemary, and prosciutto and I had the light and fruity Spring to Summer, with Tito’s Vodka, aperol, grapefruit, lime, and Prosecco.
We also nibbled on passed appetizers. There was Duck & Pancetta Polpetta from Chef Brian Okin of Dinner in the Dark; “Hillbilly Crudite” from Chef Adam Bostwick of Polpetta; Curied Foie Gras on Toast from Chef John Selick of Sodexo, University Hospitals; Yukon Gold and Sartori Mini Pierogi from Chef Chris Quinn of US Foods; and Braunschweiger Mousse from Chefs Penny Barend and Melissa Khoury of Saucisson.
Our first course from Chef Karen Small of Flying Fig was a Crisped Spring Onion Crepe, with asparagus and wild shrimp, tarragon, red chili butter, lemon confit, and Heritage Lake Farm watercress.
This dish was springtime on a plate: delicate, light, and yet filled with distinct flavors.
Next was Roasted Summer Vegetables, with basil, smoked parmesan, and quinoa from Chef Justin Lucas of Urban Farmer.
The vegetables had a rich, smoky flavor and the quinoa added nice texture.
The third course was A Walk through the Chef’s Garden, with squash blossom, egg, nasturtium, asparagus, green tomato, oyster leaf, and turnip.
This dish was visually stunning, from the drop of “water” on each leaf to the perfectly runny egg nestled inside the squash blossom.
Next up was a play on a classic favorite from a hometown favorite: Chef Michael Symon of Lola, Mabel’s BBQ, and B Spot Burgers.
The Chicken Liver Matzo Balls, with summer truffles, were a gourmet and luscious spin on the classic comfort food.
Next up was what I found to be the most interesting dish of the night: Koji Cured Crispy Maitake, with wild greens and walleye bottarga from Chef Jeremy Umansky of Larder Delicatessen & Bakery.
Tangy, crispy, fresh, and delicious, this dish really showcased Chef Umansky’s unique ides.
The eating kept right on going with Ohio Wagyu Beef, with fritter, tomato chutney, carpaccio, beef fat tonnato, horseradish, rocket, quinoa, and maldon from Chef Vishwatej Nath of Urban Farmer.
What a tasty way to enjoy wagyu two ways!
Our final savory course was Lamb Loin, with napa cabbage, cannellini beans, tomato glace de viande, and celery root espuma.
From Chef John M. D’Amico of Chez Francois, this dish was so delicious, I was tempted to lick the plate. This celebrated chef rarely leaves his kitchen, so it was truly a treat to enjoy his food at this event.
We had two dessert courses, which is how I plan to end all my meals now. First was Raspberry Tea Mousse, with lemon poppy sponge, fig, lemon verbena, and rye crumble from Pastry Chef Kara Swortchek of Urban Farmer.
So many different flavors and textures at play in this bright, fruity dish!
Our final course was decadence defined and deconstructed: Dark Chocolate Toasted Rice Ice Cream, with black sesame almond chocolate cake, black sesame streusel, candied almonds, fennel caramel, coconut ginger cream, and pickled ginger chip, from Pastry Chef Annabella Andricks of The Dinerbar on Clifton.
Each course was expertly paired with wine, some local, some not. But I loved seeing some of my local favorites from M Cellars and Ferrante Winery make appearances!
It was a fun, delicious, long evening of incredible food, wine, and camaraderie.
We have an incredible food community here in Cleveland, certainly worthy of such an amazing Celebrity Chef Tour experience.