Monday, May 30, 2011

JBF LTD: David Kinch and John Paul Carmona

While it was the Chang and Aizpitarte dinners that garnered the majority of attention from the food paparazzi, it was the JBF LTD dinner with David Kinch and John Paul Carmona of Manresa that excited me the most. Last Spring, MW and I were fortunate enough to visit Chef Kinch's restaurant in Los Gatos and considered it among the very best meals that we've enjoyed. Nothing has changed since then, and this meal only strengthened my initial belief that Kinch is one of the most important chefs in America.

Practically regulars by this point, we sipped our glasses of Veuve de Vernay Brut, France NV while we picked at the bowl of Mixed Nuts.

Among the first to be seated, we made small talk with our neighbors as the first course was being served. The Green Garden Gazpacho with Almond Milk Ice, Pickled Green Strawberries and Vegetable Beignets instantly struck a chord with those familiar with Manresa. A velvety green soup was poured over a mélange vegetables and the almond milk ice. The contrast in temperature between the hot soup and the cold almond milk was exciting, but it was the pickled strawberries that really made the dish for me. Served with vegetable beignets sprinkled with vinegar powder, this was a solid start to the meal. Paired with a Boulder Bank Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand 2008, I felt it lacked enough acidity to pair well with the beignet.

The following course, Romaine and Abalone Salad with Grilled Cucumber, Avocado and "Norinade," was another Kinch classic. I've enjoyed few abalone dishes as skillfully prepared as what I've eaten in Japan. Manresa was an exception to this statement. Wonderfully tender yet still containing a pleasant chewy texture, the abalone was a good as any I've ever had and astonished MW. Although the romaine and cucumber seemed superfluous, the creamy avocado and seaweed "norinade" beautifully highlighted the abalone. Unlike the previous pairing, the Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay Sonoma, California 2008 seemed much more appropriate.

Served family-style on a large platter, the Suckling Porcelet with Whey Polenta, Rhubarb, Hazelnut and Spring Onions was a showstopper, literally ending conversation at the table. Diners were on their best behavior as they attempted to divvy out equal portions of succulent loin and belly between themselves. Accented by a creamy polenta, sweet spring onions and a rhubarb-hazelnut jus, every platter was scraped clean. Both of us agreed that the Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, California 2007 pairing was the best of the night

With Lavazzo Coffee and Espresso served, we were presented with a basket of sweet Popovers served with a Hibiscus-Berry Butter. Dusted with powdered sugar and a generous helping of the delicious butter, the massive popovers were a fitting conclusion to a great meal.

But what I felt most special, more so than all the previous JBF LTD dinners I attended, was the fact that Chef Kinch made it a point to personally thank every table, giving each diner a package of Shortbread-Pistachio Cookies along with a handful of Manresa's signature Salted Caramels.

As stated above, this meal captured the essence of why I think so highly of Chefs Kinch and Carmona. Not because the food was excellent. It was. But rather, for what their food conveys. Us New Yorkers are blessed with a good number of talented chefs, but few are able to convey a sense of place like Chef Kinch. Using food as his medium, Kinch successfully transports one to California, and as our neighbors told us, "it was as if we were back home." Perhaps it was the green strawberries similar to what we experienced from the Silverado Trail, or maybe it was the incredible abalone reminiscent of the Bay area, but it was those signature salted caramels that ultimately did it for us. While Chef Kinch may have been the last JBF LTD dinner, it was absolutely first-rate in satisfaction.

This meal was among a series of dinners hosted by the JBF LTD. To read about the other meals attended click here, here and here.


75 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10011

To see all the pictures from this meal click HERE.

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