"The practice of gathering- collecting recipes and ingredients, and bringing people together- has been a constant in my career. With the vast Pacific Rim region at my doorstep, there is endless scope for inspiration. I have drawn on this life experience to create this James Beard Menu" - Chris Mills
Last night I had the pleasure of attending a special dinner at Joey Lake Union, where Chris Mills, executive chef of Joey Restaurants, previewed his upcoming (November 20th) James Beard House menu for a crowd of roughly fifty Seattle-based food lovers. A true citizen of the world and Beard House alum, Mills has wowed fans on Japan’s Iron Chef and won a hard-earned fifth-place finish at the 2001 Bocuse d’Or. Lucky for us, he's using those global travels as inspiration for his Pacific Rim–inflected cuisine at the Joey Restaurants. Everything about the meal and its presentation was superb, and it was orchestrated in a way that only a talented and experienced chef can achieve. What Mills did was develop a menu inspired by the bounty of the Pacific Rim as well as his journey through Asia and North America. A great deal of the ingredients were either caught or grown by Mills himself. The flavors were calculated and masterfully paired. The plating was stunning. The dining experience was one I'll remember for years, or at least my taste buds will. Here are the delicious dishes I enjoyed:
Hors d'oeuvres were whimsical and fun, inspired by street food vendors, county fairs, and beachside snack shacks. Bites bites included: Peaches and Cream Chicken 'Corndogs' (my personal favorite for their surprising yet subtle peach flavor), Japanese Hummus, Chicken Tacos, and Pacific Tuna Chopsticks. Each was an explosion of flavors, and paired perfectly with the Efeste "Ferel" Sauvignon Blanc from Washington.
Citrus-Cured Haida Gwaii Salmon with Dungeness Crab Flan and Cornbread
paired with L'ecole 41 Chenin Blanc, Washington
This dish is Chris' British Columbian twist on a big farmer's breakfast of classic bacon (cured salmon), eggs (crab flan), and toast (cornbread). Chris reeled in the three- 20 lb wild Spring Salmon required for the dish while fishing this summer off the coast of Haida Gwaii in BC's northern Pacific waters.
Alaskan Black Cod, BBQ Pork Belly and Squash Dumpling in a Matsutake Mushroom Broth
paired with Sandhill "Small Lots" Viognier, BC
While traveling in China, Mills discovered the delight of sharing dim sum with friends, and has since been a regular at Sunday dim sum in Vancouver's Chinatown.
The fragrant white matsutake mushrooms in this dish grow wild in the Pacific Northwest. This fall, Mills picked his supply for the menu at his secret mushroom patch. He wouldn't say exactly where this secret patch grows, but he did hint at north of Whistler.
Licorice Lacquered Duck Breast, Summer Cherry Conserve, with a Hazelnut-Crusted Korean Duck Roll
paired with La Crema "Sonoma" Pinot Noir, California
During Chris Mills' previous visit to the James Beard House in 2006, the duck dish he served proved to be the most popular of the evening. This year, Mills will be serving duck again, but in a different style. Star anise flavor and a Korean-style steam bun wrap highlight this dish. The Asian influence is complimented by Lapin cherries from Kelowna, BC, which were canned by Mills this past summer.
A palate cleansing Apple and Celery Salad Dressed Simply in Lemon Olive Oil with Candied Walnuts
45 Day Aged Beef Rib Eye with Yukon Gold Potato, Braised Oxtail and Black Trumpet Mushroom Lasagna and Bellman Farm Carrots
paired with Magnificent Wine Co. "The Originals" Syrah, Washington
This dish puts a twist on the Canadian meat and potatoes tradition. Chris hand selected the Yukon Gold potatoes in the oxtail and mushroom lasagna at Helmers Farm in Pemberton, BC, and the root vegetables were sourced from Bellmann Farm in Armstrong, BC.
Vietnamese Banana Cake with Tropical Fruit Salad and Toasted Coconut Ice Cream
paired with Inniskillin Okanagan Riesling Ice Wine, British Columbia
The inspiration for the Vietnamese banana cake came from Mills' travels in Asia.
A special thank you to Chef Mills for such an outstanding dining experience and another thank you to both Norma Rosenthal and Allan Aquila for including me in the event!
For those of you interested in learning more about the James Beard Foundation as well as the calendar of chef dinners, check out their website here: James Beard Foundation
-Andrea Mitchell, Foodista staff and blogger at CanYouStayForDinner.com