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What is the James Beard House?

What is the James Beard House?

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This legendary townhouse is the home base of the renowned James Beard Foundation

The James Beard House is the headquarters of the James Beard Foundation.

The James Beard House, located on 12th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, was once the longtime home of legendary gastronome James Beard. Today it’s the headquarters of the James Beard Foundation, which is perhaps best known for bestowing the annual James Beard Awards on the best chefs and restaurants in the country. But the non-profit actually offers “a variety of events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain, and foster a deeper understanding of our culinary culture,” according to their website, “with educational initiatives, food industry awards, an annual national food conference, Leadership Awards program, culinary scholarships, and publications,” and their base of operations is the famed James Beard House.

James Beard hosted the very first television food program (in 1946), was an early champion of local products and markets, wrote several cookbooks, and nurtured a generation of American chefs and cookbook authors. After he passed away in 1986, Peter Kump, a former student of Beard and the founder of the Institute of Culinary Education, began the James Beard Foundation. At the suggestion of Julia Child, Kump purchased the brownstone as a gathering place where the public and press could experience meals cooked by some of the country’s leading chefs, and to this day it still hosts great chefs multiple nights weekly.

Guests enter the townhouse through the garden floor, and after checking in they’re led through the kitchen (where they have an opportunity to meet the chef and watch their team in action) before entering a glassed-in atrium where cocktail hour is held. When the weather is nice, guests can also enjoy an outdoor garden. After cocktail hour, guests head upstairs to the former library, which is now the main dining room, where they’re seated in groups at large round tables for dinner. The remaining floors are home to the organization’s offices.

The James Beard house is an unassuming townhouse, but it’s nothing short of legendary when it comes to the culinary world.

A Virtual Reality Tasting Menu Is Being Served at the James Beard House Through January

An Italian artist is using VR headsets to "reframe" the dining experience.

Most dining involves at least some level of "theater"—no, you weren&apost just whisked away to Italy, you just stepped into the Olive Garden! Whether it&aposs the music in the background or the weight of the silverware, science has repeatedly found that the experience surrounding what we eat affects how our food tastes. And now, a virtual reality dining experience at the James Beard House in New York takes that idea to new extremes.

With tickets available through January 31, Aerobanquets RMX is billed as "a virtual and augmented reality art and dining experience in seven bites"—the brainchild of Italian artist Mattia Casalegno, with food courtesy of Chintan Pandya and Roni Mazumdar, the duo behind the highly-lauded Indian restaurants Rahi and Adda (the latter a Food & Wine Best New Restaurant). The hour-long, "mind-altering" mix of VR headsets and a corresponding single-bite tasting menu—narrated by Gail Simmons�uted in the U.S. last month after successful runs in China and South Korea. And for $125 per person, you can try it for yourself.

"We live our lives more and more detached from the physicality of reality—through our phones, we are detaching ourselves from the reality of life… I wanted to work to bring us back to the realness, and eating is one of the most real things you can work with," Casalegno told Washington Post food writer Emily Heil. "Anytime we go to a restaurant, we have some ideas of how we should eat and what the things we are eating will taste like, whether it&aposs meat, fish or vegetables… In our brains, we are already experiencing the taste. I wanted to use virtual reality to reframe the experience—in our brains, we are blanked out and we can start from scratch in a way."

Heil donned a VR headset herself and described the experience as "a Dali-esque landscape, where [diners] encounter food in ways that feel stranger than Alice in Wonderland stumbling across a tea party." The room is dark, the chairs spin, and the vision-covering VR headset means you only see what the artist wants you to see—whether it&aposs your own robot-like hands, dancing forks, or simply an empty abyss.

Mitchell Davis, chief strategy officer for the James Beard Foundation, told the Post that the VR experience is in line with how plenty of other restaurants operate—though instead of Olive Garden, he referenced the world-renowned Spanish eatery El Bulli. "At El Bulli, the technology happens in the kitchen, where hundreds of people worked really hard with science and equipment to change your perceptions of food and how you ate," he explained. "Here, the food is regular food, but all the technology is happening as you get it."

If you&aposre in New York, reservations are available in the afternoon and evening, Thursday to Sunday. Pre-booking is a must and as of this writing, some of the one-hour slots are already sold out. Find more information here.

Update Dec. 13, 2019: A previous version of this article stated that tickets were only available through December 29, 2019. Food & Wine has since been informed event is extended through January 2020.

James Beard’s Famous Oat Bread

– 2 packages active dry yeast
– 2 teaspoons sugar
– 1 cup lukewarm water (110 to 115 degrees)
– 1/3 cup butter
– 1 cup boiling water
– 1 cup rolled oats
– 1/3 cup molasses
– 1 tablespoon salt
– 1 egg
– 5 1/2 cups sifted flour

Dissolve dry active yeast and sugar in 1 cup lukewarm water. Let stand for 10 minutes, then stir very well. Cream butter in a large mixing bowl, add boiling water, and stir until completely melted. Add rolled oats, molasses, and salt. Blend thoroughly and cool to lukewarm. Add egg and beat well. Add the yeast, then fold in the flour.

Put the dough in a buttered mixing bowl, turning it so it is well greased on all sides, then refrigerate for at least two hours—you can leave it for three or four hours. Turn out the chilled dough on a floured work surface and shape into two loaves. Place in well-buttered 9 x 5-inch loaf pans, and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about two hours.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake bread for approximately one hour, or until the loaves are nicely browned and sound hollow when you rap the bottom with your knuckles. Remove from the pans and cool on a rack.

Major funding for James Beard: America’s First Foodie is provided by Feast it Forward. Additional funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and Art Works.

Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Judith and Burton Resnick, Ellen and James S. Marcus, Vital Projects Fund, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation and public television viewers.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

– 8 to 10 chicken legs
– 2/3 cup olive oil
– 2 teaspoons salt
– 1/4 teaspoon pepper
– Dash of nutmeg
– 40 cloves garlic, approximately 3 bulbs, peeled
– 4 stalks celery, sliced thinly
– 6 sprigs parsley
– 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
– 1/4 cup dry vermouth

Rinse chicken legs in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Dip the chicken in olive oil to coat each piece and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Put chicken in a lidded 3-quart casserole along with the residue of oil. Add the garlic, sliced celery, parsley, tarragon, and vermouth. Seal the top of the casserole with a sheet of foil and cover tightly. Bake for 1 1/2 hours in a preheated 375ºF oven. Do not remove the lid during the baking period. Serve with hot toast or thin slices of pumpernickel and spread the softened garlic on the bread.

Major funding for James Beard: America’s First Foodie is provided by Feast it Forward. Additional funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and Art Works.

Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Judith and Burton Resnick, Ellen and James S. Marcus, Vital Projects Fund, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation and public television viewers.

Classic Cookbooks: The James Beard Cookbook

The James Beard Cookbook is probably the best-known work of the Dean of American Cookery (later Gastronomy), but it is not, according to his most recent biographer John Birdsall, his best. That honor would go to Delights And Prejudices , Beard’s 1964 memoir—not of things that happened to him, but things he ate. That book begins:

When Proust recollected the precise taste sensation of the little scalloped madeleine cakes served at tea by his aunt, it led him into his monumental remembrance of things past. When I recollect the taste sensations of my childhood, they lead me to more cakes, more tastes: the great razor clams, the succulent Dungeness crab, the salmon, crawfish, mussels, and trout of the Oregon coast the black bottom pie served in a famous Portland restaurant the Welsh rabbit of our Chinese cook the white asparagus my mother canned and the array of good dishes prepared by both of them in that most memorable of kitchens.

Delights And Prejudices is the sort of book that makes you hungry. Even as a small boy in Portland, Oregon, James Beard knew what good food was, and both his mother and the Chinese cook, Jue Let, made sure he had plenty of it. The book contains recipes, but they’re the old-fashioned kind, written out in paragraph form with the understanding that the person reading them already has a basic idea of how to cook. And there’s a sense that—although Beard claims his taste memory is pure and uninfluenced by sentimentality—the food Beard ate as a child cannot be precisely recreated. Elizabeth Beard and Let were both skilled professionals—before James was born, they had run a hotel kitchen together—and while they lacked modern cooking equipment, they had the benefit of the freshest and best ingredients, the sort that probably weren’t widely available to most Americans by the ’60s. (And maybe not in the early 1900s, either, unless you were a professional cook with connections and the clout to demand the very best white asparagus from the vegetable seller and the knowledge to protect yourself from being duped.)

The James Beard of Delights And Prejudices is a sensualist. The James Beard Cookbook, on the other hand, is the work of the Dean of American Cookery himself, a comprehensive cookbook akin to Fannie Farmer (which he loved) or Joy Of Cooking (which he did not). This book begins with a recipe. for boiling water.

This is what you do: Fill a saucepan with cold water and put it on the stove. Adjust the burner to high. Let the water heat until it bubbles and surges—and that is boiling water.

The James Beard Cookbook, as Beard explains in the introduction, is a book for two types of people: those who literally do not know how to boil water and those who know the basics, but not how to make anything that tastes good. But fear not: Uncle James is here to help! “I assure you in all seriousness that many of the recipes in this book are not much more complicated than these instructions on how to boil water.” (My grandmother, the original owner of my copy of The James Beard Cookbook, fell into the second category. I rescued the book from her house after she died, along with her copy of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, Vol. 1. Both books were pristine. I don’t think she ever used them. I imagine that, when she bought the books around 1970, she was preparing for life as an empty-nester, and thought she would take up cooking. Instead, she and my grandfather became world travelers.)

The picture on the cover of my copy, the 1970 revised edition, shows an enormous jolly bald man in a plaid shirt and striped apron laughing with joy as he stands at a table outdoors stuffing an enormous fish: the Santa Claus (sans beard) of American Cookery. This is clearly a man who loves his food and knows how to prepare it. You are in good hands. The headnotes are brisk and informative and don’t get much more personal than this one for Braised Beef, Bordeaux Fashion: “This is a peasant dish from the Bordeaux region in France, and I first ate it there with the local pickers during grape harvest time.” And then to business.

Beard’s original goal as a food writer was to teach Americans how to appreciate the French bourgeois cuisine that he loved, which he did by writing recipes for boeuf bourguignon or pot au feu and giving them less-intimidating American names. His true genius, however, was the realization that American food could have its own terroir: it could capture the spirit of French food without slavishly following the recipes. Instead, American cooks should imitate the habits of the best French cooks or his mother and Let: they should use the best local ingredients they can find and let that guide their preparations. He makes that point quite clear at the outset of The James Beard Cookbook: “Buy good food, and buy often.”

This was somewhat radical advice in 1959 when The James Beard Cookbook first appeared. (Knowing its audience, the publisher, Dell, first issued it as a cheap paperback and then, a year later, reissued it in hardcover for more serious cooks, or maybe those who had worn out their paperbacks.) Americans were still in the thrall of canned and frozen convenience foods, and Beard wanted to rescue them from the tyranny of the TV dinner. He doesn’t come out and say so in The James Beard Cookbook, of course—why risk alienating your readers?—but his recipes call for fresh meat and vegetables and he makes a point of demystifying kitchen processes, like chopping and poaching and making a French-style omelette (although he includes two other, simpler preparations for the less confident cooks). For this reason, The James Beard Cookbook has aged extremely well you could still give it to a novice cook today, especially if they’re interested in Western European-style food, and they should feel confident enough to make a meal from it, even Braised Beef, Bordeaux Fashion.

But there is very little of James Beard, the human being, in The James Beard Cookbook. There’s more of him in Delights And Prejudices, but, as John Birdsall argues in his own wonderful biography, The Man Who Ate Too Much: The Life Of James Beard , the Beard persona had already been well-established by 1964. This was, in part, because it took a village to write a book by “James Beard,” populated by editors, typists, and coauthors, including Isabel Callvert, who gets credit on the title page of The James Beard Cookbook, who all worked together to tame his meanderings into standard, authoritative prose. Beard was also a notorious thief of other people’s recipes he claimed it was compensation for helping them along in the food world, but he never bothered to warn them in advance.

The other reason there’s so little James Beard in “James Beard,” though, Birdsall writes, is because Beard, like many queer people in the first half of the 20th century, was deeply closeted. That he was gay was an open secret to his friends—many of whom were queer themselves—and in the food world at large, but to his fans he was just their bachelor uncle. (In fact, Beard lived with the architect Gino Cofacci for the last 30 years of his life Cofacci, Birdsall writes, was probably the first person with whom Beard had ever been truly in love, but the relationship, of course, remained a secret.) Beard had learned the consequences of being a gay man in America early: he had been expelled from Reed College in 1921 after he was overheard hooking up with a male professor in his dorm room. After his early dreams of acting died and he drifted into party-planning and catering and then, finally, cookbook writing and teaching, his editors encouraged him to hide his natural gossipy, campy personality behind the authoritative “Dean of American Cookery.” Beard’s dream was to write a chatty, personal cookbook that relied on taste memory rather than instruction, something like The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book (another queer icon!), but the closest he ever got was Delights And Prejudices.

The house on West 10th Street in Greenwich Village where Beard was living in 1969 was within shouting distance of the Stonewall Inn—Birdsall found evidence that Beard was at home the night of the uprising on June 28—but Beard was 66 years old by then and, Birdsall writes, “shame and fear were not things people of James’s generation could fling away so easily, like pennies at cops. James had become a master at inventing myths about himself: He needed to.”

It took Birdsall seven years to write The Man Who Ate Too Much. He had access to Beard’s manuscripts and letters to friends and the datebooks where he recorded what he ate, and he was able to interview several people who knew him well, including gay men he mentored. All of his helped dispel some of the myths Beard created about himself. But before Beard died in 1985, he’d requested that his personal effects, particularly those that provided definite proof of his queer identity, be destroyed.

Now James Beard is an icon, literally: his image appears on anything stamped with the imprimatur of the James Beard Foundation. His house on West 12th Street is a temple to American gastronomy, or at least to the people who have given themselves the authority to determine what American gastronomy is and who does it best. It dwarfs his books and anything else that hints that the Dean of American Cookery was once an actual human being. Birdsall comes as close as anyone to reviving him. But much of James Beard himself remains unknowable. Some myths will be enshrined as truth, and some truths will remain a mystery.

Beard House Recipe: Duck Fat Popcorn with Foie Gras Butter and Truffle Salt

In the mood for a truly luxurious movie night? Desperate for a way to add glitz and glam to your dinner party? Look no further than this decadent duck fat popcorn from Aksel Theilkuhl of New York City's Uncle Jack&rsquos Steakhouse. He coats the kernels in duck fat to fry, then tosses the finished product in grated truffles, salt, and a lavish foie gras butter. Theilkuhl served this unctuous hors d&rsquooeuvre at his recent Beard House dinner exploring the cutting of edge of chophouse fare, but you&rsquore only a few ingredients away from sumptuous snack thanks to his straightforward recipe. Get popping.

Maggie Borden is assistant editor at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram and Twitter.

A Deeper, Darker Look at James Beard, Food Oracle and Gay Man

A new biography traces the influence he wielded as a writer and the pain he endured for his sexuality in an unwelcoming world.

Fifty years ago, this is how the foremost American food authority described his favorite menu for a holiday open house:

“I put out a big board of various slicing sausages — salami, Polish sausage, whatever I find in the market that looks good — and an assortment of mustards. I also like to have another board of cheeses: Swiss Gruyère, a fine Cheddar and maybe a Brie. And with the cheeses, I serve thinly sliced rye bread and crackers of some kind and a bowl of fruit.”

In other words: James Beard, who died in 1985 at age 81, was a master of the charcuterie board long before it became a staple on Instagram and Pinterest — and even before those platforms’ founders were born.

Discovering seeds of the present in the past happens again and again when revisiting Beard’s body of work, which I did this fall in anticipation of the first new biography of him in 30 years: “The Man Who Ate Too Much,” by John Birdsall, published in October by W.W. Norton. For the first time, Mr. Birdsall brings both scholarly research and a queer lens to Beard’s life, braiding the strands of privilege and pain, performance and anxiety, into an entirely new story.

“Beard is a very complicated and in some ways a messy figure,” said Mr. Birdsall, a writer and former chef whose work focuses on queer influence in American food and homophobia in the culinary world. “I wanted to understand that — the personality or psychology of somebody who had a huge impact on American cultural life, yet lived with such fear of being exposed.”

Not many home cooks use Beard’s recipes today, and very little of his enormous, influential body of work is online. But when I was growing up, Julia Child and James Beard were the twin gods of our household, like an extra set of grandparents whom my food-mad parents consulted and compared daily. It seemed entirely logical to me that when we drove north of the city, we passed highway signs for James Beard State Park. (My adult self now knows that it’s James Baird State Park, named for a local tycoon who donated the land.)

Child and her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” were the source of dinner-party menus, but Beard was the sage who governed everyday food like potpie and potato salad, bean soup and cornbread with his 1972 masterwork, “American Cookery.”

Today, Beard’s definition of American cooking is complicated by questions about his authority, identity and privilege. Nevertheless, the book stands as a chronicle of the nation’s food for the arc of the 20th century.

It is still astonishingly fresh in many ways.

“Along with the growth of organic gardening and the health foods cult, there is a renewed interest in food from the wilds,” begins the book’s chapter on vegetables. Unlike “Joy of Cooking” and the “Betty Crocker Cookbook,” other kitchen bibles of the time, “American Cookery” rarely calls for frozen vegetables, canned fruit, cake mix or similar convenience foods.

Many of Beard’s recipe lists read like a modern Brooklyn bistro menu, with items like sunchokes and sliders, scallion tart and roasted figs with prosciutto. Many others reflect the relatively broad view that he took of American cooking: ceviche, Syrian lentil soup with Swiss chard, menudo and basil pesto — a radically raw and shockingly flavorful sauce at the time.

The food of the United States wasn’t then considered a true cuisine, like that of France, China, Japan or Italy, where culinary traditions were built over centuries. But the American melting pot had been combining ingredients through generations of immigration. And in the counterculture of the 1970s, the idea of the global palate was filtering into the mainstream, sweeping Chinese cooking classes, Indian spice blends, Japanese pottery and Moroccan tagines into U.S. kitchens.

Often, those ideas arrived through white male gatekeepers like Beard, the New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne and the members of the Wine and Food Society of New York, a group then dominated by wealthy gay men.

All chefs who now describe their food as “new American” owe something to Beard, though most know him only as the face stamped on the culinary medals bestowed annually by the foundation named for him. Following his death, the organization was started as a way to preserve his legacy and his Greenwich Village townhouse. After a halting start and a 2004 embezzlement scandal that resulted in a prison term for the group’s president, the foundation has grown along with the power of its awards, as restaurants and chefs have become ever more important elements of popular culture.

But most chefs, and others who have known Beard through his countless books, columns and television appearances (which began in 1946), have had no idea of what Mr. Birdsall calls the “messy” parts of his story.

There are sad, messy parts: the childhood ridicule Beard suffered because of his size, the expulsion from college because of a single sex act, the anxiety he lived with as a gay celebrity when coming out was unthinkable.

And there are troubling, messy parts: plagiarizing and taking credit for other people’s recipes, accepting paid endorsements for products that he did not always believe in, and exposing himself to and fondling young men who hoped for his professional support.

What to Cook This Weekend

Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the weekend. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

    • In this slow-cooker recipe for shrimp in purgatory, the spicy red pepper and tomato sauce develops its deep flavors over hours.
    • Deploy some store-bought green chutney in this quick, saucy green masala chicken. could be good for dinner, and some blueberry muffins for breakfast.
    • For dessert, watermelon granita? Or a poundcake with macerated strawberries and whipped cream?
    • And for Memorial Day itself? You know we have many, many recipes for that.

    “Delights and Prejudices,” Beard’s 1964 “memoir with recipes,” paints a nostalgic picture of a nearly preindustrial childhood among the wealthy class of Portland, Ore. In Beard’s telling, it was happy, glamorous and shot through with glowing food moments: wild salmon and huckleberries at the family’s house at Gearhart Beach fresh abalone, white asparagus and crab legs in San Francisco dining rooms foie gras and Dungeness crab aboard the luxury vessels that ran between Portland and Los Angeles.

    But Mr. Birdsall’s research, including extensive interviews with Beard’s contemporaries, revealed shadows that Beard never mentioned.

    Born in 1903, Beard was an only child raised mostly by his mother, Elizabeth Beard, who was famous for her cooking at the elegant boardinghouse she ran, the Gladstone, in the days of oyster patties, roast pheasant and charlotte russe. The person who did most of the actual kitchen work was Jue Let, a masterly cook from Guangdong who worked at the Gladstone and then in the Beard family home for more than a decade.

    He fed James congee, steamed salt fish and lychees — and satisfied the boy’s exacting mother by flawlessly executing her formulas for chicken stock, pie crusts and dry-aged meat. She and Mr. Let instilled in Beard the culinary ethos of fresh and seasonal ingredients, carefully cooked, that became Beard’s contribution to the American food revolution of the 1970s.

    In Beard’s memory, “Mother” made all the rules: only certain strains of fruit, like Marshall strawberries, were “allowed into the house” she “would not dream” of using canned vegetables venison “wasn’t worth the trouble,” and so on. The willingness to be opinionated that he learned from her helped him become one of the great food voices of his century.

    But in Mr. Birdsall’s empathetic telling, it also meant that Beard’s mother never concealed her impatience with him, his childhood needs and his growing differences.

    In most of Beard’s writing, “he’s still pushing the story of grand, happy boyhood holidays,” Mr. Birdsall said. But at the glorious duck dinners and mince pie feasts that Beard describes, he was usually the sole child present his father, who avoided his mother’s racy friends, was often absent, and Beard learned to perform for the crowd, as he felt compelled to for the rest of his life. “I soon became as precocious and nasty a child as ever inhabited Portland,” he wrote in his memoir.

    There seems to have never been a time when Beard was comfortable in his own skin.

    According to Mr. Birdsall, who gained access to many of Beard’s unpublished writings, he knew he was gay from a very young age. The first public airing of his gay identity was traumatic: In his freshman year at Reed College, he was caught by his roommates in a sexual encounter with a professor, and summarily expelled — a double humiliation that he never entirely recovered from.

    Being expelled from Reed meant effectively being banished from home — albeit with a wide socio-economic safety net. He sailed for Europe, discovered the gay underground in London and Paris, moved to New York and began his food career in the 1930s, catering parties thrown by Manhattan’s gay and art-world elites.

    Even as he became confident and successful, Beard always carried shame about his size 6 feet 3 inches tall, he often weighed more than 350 pounds in adulthood. For the last 30 years of his life, his legs had to be kept tightly wrapped in bandages and compression stockings because of chronic edema and varicose veins. And, according to Mr. Birdsall’s research, Beard had a lifelong condition called phimosis — a too-tight foreskin that makes erections extremely painful — that made Beard’s feelings about sex and his body even more complicated. (It is now commonly treated in childhood.)

    And so, though he had many friends in the food world (and enemies, especially those whose recipes he lifted), Beard had just a few intimate partners over the course of his life. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when he settled into fame and some wealth, that he achieved the stability that allowed him to buy a townhouse in Greenwich Village with his partner, Gino Cofacci, and come into his own as a host.

    “I had never seen anything like the conviviality and the cooking and the eating that would go on there,” said the chef Andrew Zimmern, who went to Beard’s legendary Christmas and Sunday open houses as a boy. “There was a whole fabulous gay food mafia living downtown.”

    Mr. Zimmern’s father, a successful advertising executive, came out as gay and moved to Greenwich Village with his partner in the late 1960s.

    Mr. Zimmern said he loved the chaotic generosity: whole salmon poaching in a copper pot on the industrial stove, giant platters of charcuterie and cheese, piles of ingredients and bowls of fruit everywhere, and Beard presiding over all of it — tasting, carving, slicing, roaring and going through multiple changes of silk pajamas. He also remembers encountering tastes there for the first time, like a braise of chicken with olives, almonds and raisins, a dish with roots in Spain and California that Beard made often.

    But mainly, he said, he remembers the feeling of being free. “There were so many places that my dads were uncomfortable, on their guard, even though we went to restaurants all the time,” Mr. Zimmern said.

    He now credits Beard’s hospitality for his own early culinary aspirations. “To see them eating together, shoulders relaxed and happy, meant everything to me,” he said. “I saw what food can do for a person’s heart.”

    James Beard Foundation Honors Sylvia Casares

    Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

    It&rsquos a combination of triumph and tragedy. The James Beard Foundation is inviting Houston celebrity chef, Sylvia Casares, to showcase her cuisine at the James Beard House in New York City, date to be determined. The invitation is one of the most coveted honors in the food industry, and Casares says she is thrilled to receive this national accolade for Houston and Texas. But it comes when Casares is facing the layoff of her employees due to limits on restaurant business because of the coronavirus.

    "I'm boiling mad,&rdquo she says, about having to close her dining rooms as mandated by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, and having to lay off her staff, whom she calls family. She explains that &ldquothere will be over 100 employees that are unemployed. Full-service restaurants cannot survive with to-go business. Our rents are too high.&rdquo Nevertheless, she is already strategizing how to continue cooking for Houstonians, and she asks: &ldquoplease continue to support us as best as you are able.&rdquo

    The invitation comes at a moment when all restaurants in the United States are hurt by the Covid-19 fallout. &ldquoThis has never happened before,&rdquo says Casares as she focuses on the crisis at hand. And what about the invitation to showcase her food in New York City? She leans across the table and with bright, steely eyes declares, &ldquoI'm not a scaredy cat.&rdquo She continues, &ldquoI&rsquom cautious, very cautious, but I&rsquove never been paralyzed by fear.&rdquo And that&rsquos her attitude for weathering a prolonged, heartbreaking pandemic while at the same time relishing this honor to cook at James Beard House. It&rsquos a conflicted moment, fusing demands of the present with aspirations for the future.

    &ldquoThe meaning to me is to introduce New Yorkers to our style, our type of cooking because they don&rsquot know it,&rdquo she says. "I've always known that our food is misunderstood because we get lumped into the tex-mex category that is commercial preparation, mass-produced, and my food isn't like that. So I view this as a tremendous opportunity to serve a sampling of some of our beloved recipes from the border, from our homes and from this restaurant."

    She intends to show New Yorkers the signature cooking that Houstonians know and love, the type of comida casera home cooking, that is traditional not just in Houston but also stretching all the way down to little-known south Texas towns like Refugio and Sarita. In fact, Refugio and Sarita are the names of two signature enchiladas featured in her New York dinner menu.

    The Refugio is a cheese enchilada made with a blend of cheddar cheeses. The chili gravy is divine, I mean really divine, and absolutely traditional. But you can&rsquot compare this gravy to the fast and mass-produced versions that many Tex-Mex restaurants sell it&rsquos at a different level. Sylvia worked as a food scientist for ten years before she changed careers to eventually become a chef/restaurateur. Her knowledge of the properties of substances and of chemical interactions is critical when she develops her recipes. But it&rsquos the flavors and techniques she remembers from her mom, grandmother and aunts that ultimately guide the taste of her sauces, including the chili gravy. &ldquoNeedless to say,&rdquo Sylvia explains, "nobody gave me a recipe book. There are no recipes. You just have to create them from memory, from experience.&rdquo

    Another of the enchiladas she is serving is called Sarita, the name of a tiny town near Baffin Bay, just south of Corpus Christi. It&rsquos also the name of her grandmother who used to cook one of the most traditional South Texas and Mexican dishes, calabacita con elote,&rdquosautéed squash with corn. Chef Sylvia reinterprets this home-style dish as an enchilada, adding a touch of white queso to the squash-corn sauté, and finishing it with a light cream sauce. The flavors are full and direct, but soft. This will surprise New Yorkers who think that the Mexican food of Texas is just full-throated meat with the heat of chiles, deep-fried tortillas and yellow cheese. Sylvia is convinced that they will love it, and that they will find a new appreciation of Texas cuisines.

    &ldquoBut of course it&rsquos not just enchiladas, it&rsquos my sauces, it&rsquos my tortillas, it&rsquos my soups, it&rsquos my meats cooked in mesquite, like we cook in South Texas.&rdquo The menu will be a full-fledged fiesta, starting with mini-tacos during cocktails, followed by the sit-down dinner which is a delicious excess of &ldquotodo,&rdquoeverything you would want to order if you could order everything at Sylvia&rsquos Enchilada Kitchen, served in small bites. The menu includes fideo which is the vermicelli pasta known to every Mexican American family of Texas, carnitas, beef tacos, mole, ceviche, and culminating with Sylvia&rsquos original and never duplicated chocolate tres leches.

    The James Beard House will provide the cooking staff, but Sylvia is taking one of her senior kitchen staff to help her work with the New Yorkers to make sure the sauces are perfect, the tortillas are perfect, and the quail is just like back on the ranch. Did I mention that the menu includes mesquite grilled quail? Exactly the same juicy, marinated, mesquite-smoked birds that are served to Houstonians in her restaurants. We are spoiled.

    And of course the menu includes cabrito, also smoked and served as a taco, the way it's done all the way down to Monterrey, the southernmost edge of the culinary region that is South Texas and northeastern Mexico. This unique culinary region is depicted in a large wall mural in the bar area of Sylvia&rsquos Woodway restaurant. The mural is dotted with names of the towns in her menu: Refugio, Sarita, McAllen, Monterrey and other towns on both sides of the flowing blue Rio Grande. This is the land that inspires her food, and New York gourmands will at long last get a taste.

    Casares is a new type of chef who represents not only the ego, that much-needed individual artistry upon which fine cuisine depends, but she also represents the cultural heritage of her community. &ldquoI ate this Mexican food every day for 18 years, until I went off to college, so that&rsquos all I knew. That&rsquos what we grew up on daily, three times a day.&rdquo Within the changing demographics of Texas, she is giving resonant cultural expression to a native cuisine that has up to now gone unnoticed by the elites in the U.S. culinary world.

    The New York City dinner date like all cultural activities in the United States right now, is unknown and dependent on the duration and damage of the Covid-19 pandemic. Chef Sylvia relates to the pain that New Yorkers are undergoing at this time, the same as the acute stress of her employees at her two restaurants, (Woodway at Voss and Eldridge Parkway). It&rsquos a moment of negotiating personal triumph with the tragic economic and emotional challenge she is facing. Paralyzed by fear she is not, and she intends to proceed, sometime down the road, with the wine pairings. She will proudly serve only Texas wines.

    James Beard House was the townhouse home of the &ldquoDean of American cookery,&rdquo as the New York times once described James Beard who died in 1986. His fame in the culinary world was preceded by rocky starts. In 1923 he was expelled from Reed College and he maintained that it was due to his homosexuality. Later he kept trying to break through in the theater world, but it was in 1935 that he started catering and found his true love, becoming a cookbook author and TV celebrity. Diners will taste food that James Beard would have loved, I think, because he championed food honestly prepared with American ingredients, local foods and markets.

    Sylvia&rsquos Enchilada Kitchen represents the honesty and traditional &ldquotied to the land&rdquo food that James Beard championed. It&rsquos a philosophy of food to which all chefs aspire, a philosophy that will survive this Coronavirus pandemic. That is why the James Beard Foundation, looking to the future, is conferring the honor of inviting Chef Sylvia Casares to open the taste buds of New York and introduce them to the deliciousness of real Texas Mexican cuisine.

    Keep the Houston Press Free. Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

    Courtesy of Suzanne Goin, 2016 James Beard Award Winner for Outstanding Chef, Lucques, West Hollywood

    This signature recipe can be made into sliders as an alternative for awards watching: pull apart the meat after cooking and use your preferred slider buns!

    NOTE: Short ribs, like most braised dishes, taste even better the next day. Remember you will need to marinate them a day before braising.


    Excerpted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin. Copyright © 2005 by Suzanne Goin. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    Short Ribs

    6 beef short ribs, 14 to 16 ounces each (ask for 3 bone center - cut)
    1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon thyme leaves, and 4 whole sprigs thyme
    1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
    3 dozen small pearl onions
    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1 cup diced onion
    1/3 cup diced carrot
    1/3 cup diced celery
    2 bay leaves
    2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    1 cups port
    2 cups hearty red wine
    6 cups beef or veal stock
    4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
    2 bunches Swiss chard, cleaned, center ribs removed
    Potato purée (recipe follows)
    Horseradish cream (recipe follows)
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Potato Purée

    1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
    1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
    3/4 cup heavy cream
    3/4 cup whole milk
    8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
    Kosher salt

    Horseradish Cream

    3/4 cup crème fraîche
    1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


    Season the short ribs with 1 tablespoon thyme and the cracked black pepper. Use your hands to coat the meat well. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

    Take the short ribs out of the refrigerator an hour before cooking, to come to room temperature. After 30 minutes, season them generously on all sides with salt.

    When you take the ribs out of the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 425°F.

    Toss the pearl onions with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet and roast them about 15 minutes, until tender. When they have cooled, slip off the skins with your fingers and set aside. Turn the oven down to 325°F.

    When it’s time to cook the short ribs, heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 3 minutes. Pour in 3 tablespoons olive oil, and wait a minute or two, until the pan is very hot and almost smoking. Place the short ribs in the pan, and sear until they are nicely browned on all three meaty sides. Depending on the size of your pan, you might have to sear the meat in batches. Do not crowd the meat or get lazy or rushed at this step it will take at least 15 minutes. When the ribs are nicely browned, transfer them to a braising pan. They should lie flat, bones standing up, in one layer.

    Turn the heat down to medium, and add the onion, carrot, celery, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Stir with a wooden spoon, scraping up all the crusty bits in the pan. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables just begin to caramelize. Add the balsamic vinegar, port, and red wine. Turn the heat up to high, and reduce the liquid by half.

    Add the stock and bring to a boil. Pour the liquid over the short ribs, scraping any vegetables that have fallen on the ribs back into the liquid. The stock mixture should almost cover the ribs. Tuck the parsley sprigs in and around the meat. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and a tight-fitting lid if you have one. Braise in the oven for about 3 hours.

    To check the meat for doneness, remove the lid and foil, being careful of the escaping steam, and pierce a short rib with a paring knife. When the meat is done, it will yield easily to a knife. Taste a piece if you are not sure.

    Let the ribs rest 10 minutes in their juices, and then transfer them to a baking sheet.

    Place the short ribs in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, to brown.

    Strain the broth into a saucepan, pressing down on the vegetables with a ladle to extract all the juices. Skim the fat from the sauce and, if the broth seems thin, reduce it over medium-high heat to thicken slightly. Taste for seasoning.

    Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Tear the Swiss chard into large pieces. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the pan, and stir in the cooked pearl onions. Add half the Swiss chard, and cook a minute or two, stirring the greens in the oil to help them wilt. Add a splash of water and the second half of the greens. Season with a heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of ground black pepper. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring frequently, until the greens are tender.

    Place the Swiss chard on a large warm platter, and arrange the short ribs on top. Spoon lots of braising juices over the ribs. Serve the hot potato purée and horseradish cream on the side.

    Potato Purée

    Place the potatoes, whole and unpeeled, in a large sauce pot. Add 2 tablespoons salt and fill the pot with cold water. Bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat, turn down the heat to low, and simmer about 45 minutes, until tender. One type of potato may be done before the other, so check doneness and remove one variety first, if necessary.

    When the potatoes are cooked through, strain them, and set them aside to cool for 10 minutes or so. Heat the cream and milk together in a small saucepan, then turn off the heat. When the potatoes have cooled, peel them and pass them through a food mill or potato ricer. Put the riced potatoes in a heavy-bottomed pan. Heat them over medium heat a few minutes, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, to dry them out a little. Add the butter slowly, stirring constantly. Season with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt.

    When all the butter has been incorporated, slowly stir in the warm cream mixture until you have a smooth purée. Taste for seasoning. Pass the purée through a fine-mesh tamis twice if you like.

    Onion Sandwiches

    – Loaf brioche or challah
    – 6 to 8 small white onions, peeled, sliced thinly
    – 1 bunch parsley, chopped finely
    – 1 cup mayonnaise
    – Salt to taste

    Cut brioche or challah into thin slices, and cut these into rounds with a biscuit cutter. Spread the rounds of bread with mayonnaise, top half of them with slices of onion and salt well. Top these halves with the remaining rounds, and press them together firmly. Roll the edges in mayonnaise and then chopped parsley. Chill in the refrigerator several hours before serving.

    Major funding for James Beard: America’s First Foodie is provided by Feast it Forward. Additional funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and Art Works.

    Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Judith and Burton Resnick, Ellen and James S. Marcus, Vital Projects Fund, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation and public television viewers.

    Remembering James Beard

    I don't like gourmet cooking or "this" cooking or "that" cooking. I like good cooking. -- James Beard (1903-1985).

    If James Beard were alive today, the celebrated chef, cookbook author, restaurateur, and culinary educator would have turned 102 on his birthday, May 5, last week.

    While he died in 1985, James Beard's legacy lives on through his writings -- from his 22 cookbooks to his unpublished personal letters to and from luminaries in the food world. They transmit an immense passion for the pleasure of food, as captured, for example, in this passage by Beard about fresh picked gooseberries from a 1975 article on fruit (the article in its entirety is below):

    They were so tempting that as I started to dress for the evening I grabbed a handful to take into the shower. With the water running over me, I bit into these luscious berries and the flood of juice was like an internal shower of goodness. On comparing notes with my friends I found that through some incredible piece of ESP they had done exactly the same thing. It’s rather amusing to contemplate three people all standing in their showers and munching gooseberries.

    To explore the impact and influence of James Beard -- the driving force behind a mid-century revolution in American gastronomy -- independent producer Melissa Waldron Lehner has created a one-hour audio documentary on the "Dean of American Cuisine" entitled James Beard: A 20th Century Revolution in American Food. (Readers of The Food Section may recall Melissa from the post on International Pickle Day).

    Hosted by restaurant consultant Clark Wolf, a close friend of James Beard, and featuring Gourmet magazine Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl, historian Betty Fussell, cookbook editor Judith Jones, and Dr. Marion Nestle, author and Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University (NYU), James Beard: A 20th Century Revolution in American Food provides a personal and professional portrait of James Beard through recollections of friends and colleagues and excerpts of letters and manuscripts from the James Beard Papers, collected at The NYU Fales Rare Book Collection at the Elmer Bobst Library. The correspondence includes letters written to and by James Beard from M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, and Elizabeth David.

    Listen to James Beard: A 20th Century Revolution in American Food:

    Click on the pages below to read the rough draft of a 1975 column by James Beard on “Fruitful Feasts,” including a recipe for Strawberries Teresa:

    Photo: The NYU Fales Library & Special Collections.

    Posted by Josh Friedland on May 10, 2005 in History | Link | | Print this page | Share This

    Watch the video: Exclusive NYC Dining at James Beard House. Secretly Awesome (February 2023).