This past November the chefs from Seasons at the Ocean House prepared a six-course meal with wine pairings from local winery Jonathan Edwards as part of their New England Harvest dinner at the James Beard House in New York City. Led by Chef de Cuisine Eric Haugen, several items stood out as testaments to not only the Ocean House’s experienced staff, but also the local New England ingredients they work hard to source. A Duck Liver Mousse Crostini had the perfect amount of richness with a great offset of crunchy texture. The Celery Root Panna Cotta with Watch Hill Honey Glaze, Casteveltrano Olives, Meyer Lemon and Coriander had an incredible combination of flavors. The Vermont Pork Belly with Toasted Farro, Native Winter Root Vegetables and Juniper-Scented Consomme was perfectly cooked—the pork belly prepared sous vide before searing it—and the richness of the belly was greatly tempered by the earthy faro. As much as we all love dessert I rarely clean my final plate after a meal like this, but I actually did eat every bit of Pastry Chef Adam Young’s Local Squash and Dairy Study. The wine pairings from Jonathan Edwards (I was at the dinner as a guest of the winery) were spot on, beginning with an excellent match of their 2009 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc with the Panna Cotta and an even more perfect pairing of their 2007 Napatree Point Zinfandel with the Pork Belly dish.
On Thursday, June 17th, the Rhode Island Tourism division along with members of the Providence/Warwick and Newport Convention & Visitors Bureaus hosted a Rhode Island Farm, Vine and Sea to Table luncheon at the James Beard House in New York. Four Rhode Island chefs were invited to prepare dishes made almost entirely from local ingredients, paired with wines from the state’s three wineries. Chef Matt Gennuso from Chez Pascal in Providence prepared the passed hors d’oeuvres, Chef Michael Conetta from The Mooring Seafood Kitchen & Bar in Newport prepared a salad course, Chef Matthew Varga from Gracie’s in Providence prepared the entrée course and Chef Kevin Thiele from One Bellevue at the Hotel Viking in Newport prepared dessert.
The luncheon showcased Rhode Island as a local food and wine travel destination, and guests were writers from major media travel magazines, newspaper and Web site travel sections. It was hosted by RI Tourism Trade Manager Katrina White with presentations by all four chefs along with Director of Tourism Mark Brodeur, DEM Agriculture Chief Ken Ayars and Farm Fresh RI Director Noah Fulmer. Steve Krohn from Sakonnet Vineyards was on hand to discuss the wines.
Some of the farms represented with produce were Allen Farms, Baby Greens Farm, Farming Turtles, Four Town Farm, Schartner Farms, Sweet Berry Farm and Zephyr Farm, which Chef Conetta combined in his salad course. RI seafood was represented by Matunuck Oyster Farm and Bomster Scallops from nearby Stonington. Hill Farm supplied pork belly which Chef Varga turned into bacon, Chef Gennuso used eggs from Wishing Stone Farm and pasture-raised RI beef from Blackbird Farm. Chef Thiele also used Rhody Fresh buttermilk in his dessert’s biscuits and basil from the Hotel Viking’s garden. As an added touch of RI, the intermezzo was a slushy frozen lemonade.
All of the guests were given an “I Got Fresh In RI” reusable canvas bag containing a number of RI local treats. Hopefully they also walked out of the Beard House with a good understanding of how local, healthily raised food is abundantly available in Rhode Island and that our restaurants are a treasure trove of great farm-fresh menu items. Rhode Island’s restaurants have always been a great tourist destination for food lovers and perhaps our farms will give visitors yet another thing to see here.Portions of this story appeared in edited form on GoLocalProv.