Review: James Beard House-Take 3

For a someone-special's birthday, we decided to treat ourselves to an extraordinary experience at the James Beard House. Each time I've had the opportunity to visit the amazing venue, I've always been enchanted by the soiree. The welcomed master of the evening was executive chef Lawrence Knapp, of The Hurricane Club. A most appropriate theme for a hot summer day-Polynesian Luau!

   Tobegin the hors d'oeuvre hour, we helped ourselves to The Hurricane Club's signature cocktails, including: 'In the Shell' (an overly sweet coconut concoction, served in its home of a coconut shell), 'Stormy Ginger" (a refreshing citrus drink made with ginger beer), and "Strong" (appropriately named Knob Creek cocktail, garnished with cucumber and tomato).

As we settled into the hot summer air in the outside patio, the small bites made their way into the crowd. Peking duck tea sandwiches were melt-in-your-mouth tender, served on crispy mini white toast. Chicken parm shumai, served in porcelain spoons, were a colorful delight with a slight sweetness.

Crunchy coconut shrimp were served elegantly on skewers. The Elvis, a unique combo of crispy, thick cut bacon, banana, and spicy peanuts was an incredible marriage of flavors. While my favorite of the evening outshone the rest: a peanut butter and guava jam sandwich with prosciutto and Thai basil. Superb!

As we were called into the grand dining room the fantastic staff showed us to our table, where we continued the culinary adventure. A trio of ceviche (snapper, hamachi sashimi, and toro tartare) were served with a cool Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh and tangy flavors were subtle, allowing the fish to shine.  Honey glazed baby back ribs and The Club's signature wings arrived on family style serving platters. The tender meat departed the bone with ease, while the sweet and succulent marinade coated our fingers. San Miguel, a light amber and slightly citrusy beer, complemented the multitude of succeeding helpings.

While anticipating the next course (and as if we weren't already loose enough), we received a watermelon surprise at our table...for more lubrication. A vodka-watermelon cocktail, served family style, was a fun and extremely boozy conversation piece.

Crispy peking pig (paired with a sweet hard cider) was yet another family style presentation of tender and crispy meat. Served with a multitude of sauces and buns, each guest made their customized version of a pork bun (or two.... or three... or...).

The black bean lamb chop and spice crusted shrimp surf and turf arrived plated. While the Hawaiian fried rice and baby bok choy were served for the table. Once more the chef presented us with extremely delicious flavors and textures (paired with a bit overly-sweet Riesling). I reluctantly gave up the bone of my perfectly cooked chop and couldn't get enough of the delicious rice and vibrant greens.

With the consumption of the aforementioned cocktails, wines, beers, and liquors, we were exceptionally at ease and happily cheered for the chef as he made his way into the dining room. He briefly described the desserts we were about to feast on: chocolate kill devil's food cake (an unimpressive and somewhat bland spongy cake), the pina colada upside down cake (a tasty, flavorful, and doughy batter, served with a rich yet refreshing pineapple ice cream), and the king of the evening's desserts...the Samoan! An incredible, lick-your-plate-clean melange of angel food cake, coconut, and caramel. An airy delight to end yet another incredible J.B. experience.

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