Inside the James Beard House

By: Sara Levine

For food people, the James Beard Awards rival the Oscars. We root for our favorite or hometown chefs and seek out the restaurants of award-winners while traveling. Any mention of Mr. Beard’s name in a restaurant review means major culinary clout.

If you identify with the above, you can understand my excitement upon being invited to attend a dinner at the James Beard House—the former residence of the man himself in New York’s West Village.

The Beard House is an unassuming townhouse that looks like any other on its block, except for the small plaque indicating that it is actually a culinary shrine. For chefs, it is a great honor to be asked to cook there, and the talented group of eight Washington D.C. toques who were cooking when I visited was no exception. They crammed into the crowded kitchen and studiously worked as a team to plate each dish.

In the cozy upstairs dining rooms, each chef personally presented his or her dish, and lucky diners enjoyed every morsel of a six-course meal, plus hors d’oeuvres and dangerously good cocktails from top D.C. mixologists.

Here's a taste of the incredible food you can expect from a James Beard House meal. A peek at the six-course menu from "The Best of D.C." dinner in August:

  • Abalone Foie Gras with White Soy, Meyer Lemon Jalapeno (Haidar Karoum, Proof)
  • Chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup with Crispy Fried Softshell Crab, Virginia Corn Chowchow Smoked Paprika (Daniel Giusti, 1789 Restaurant)
  • Tawa Baingan: Olive Oil, Garlic Black Pepper-Marinated Italian Eggplant with Spiced Potatoes, Jaggery, Coconut Peanut Sauce (Vikram Sunderam, Rasika)
  • Steamed Wild Sea Bass with Tianjin Fragrant Herbs (Scott Drewno, The Source by Wolfgang Puck)
  • Roasted Duck Breast with Swiss Chard, Strawberry Chutney, Cherry Wood Balsamic Summer Beans (Bertrand Chemel, 2941 Restaurant)
  • Virginia Wildflower Honey Panna Cotta with Orange Carrot (Josh Short, Buzz Bakery)

While contemplating my good fortune from my seat at the table, I learned an amazing little-known fact: Anyone can buy tickets to dine at the Beard House. Just check their calendar of upcoming events and call to make a reservation, or make one through Open Table.

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