I had a very disappointing experience at the 2003 James Beard Foundation Holiday Auction. This year's theme was Spain, and Arzak and Adria attended (even though they did not prepare in the preparation of the meal).
The hors d'oeuvres appeared very limited in quantity during the reception, and of the more than five varieties advertised on the evening's program, I sampled only some ugly oily shrimp. Overcooked and not appealing. The sparkling wine was Spanish, and I'd have to admit to my strong preference for Champagne as a general category.
Some of the James beard staff in attendance were, frankly, less than helpful. One woman who seemed to be at least in her 60s adviseed me that, despite my having specifically articulated a preference for one of six or seven tables several weeks beforehand, I was to be positioned at the Pompano table. I insisted that was not satisfactory to me, and got positioned at the Oceana table, which was alright. At least there were orange orchids and a burgundy tablecloth for visual appeal.
The meal was very disappointing, with the dishes getting progressively worse, with the exception of dessert. The pace was poor, particularly the significant wait after the first course, during which the live auction was held. I of course support the raising of money in support of J Beard, but don't believe that the food needs to stop for over 1 hour 15 minutes to accommodate the live auction.
Anyhow, the first course was the most interesting of the evening for me (although that is not saying much, and the course itself was only good-minus).
(1) Caramelized Hudson Valley Foie Gras Traingles in Honeydew Melon, with Pazo Pondal Albarino 2002, D.O. Rais Baixas. This was interesting visually, although I did not particularly like its taste in the mouth. Three little "pasta" triangles were presented, with thin honeydew melon meat as the "pasta". Inside was manipulated foie gras and something else that reminded me of a cheese connotation (?). Roasted, cut hazelnuts were strewn across the plate, together with two or three tiny melon balls. Then, along the rectangular plate, on one edge there were strands of an orangish item that could have been fried very thin julienne of carrot, but was more likely a vegetable such as yam (?). This section of the dish had a slightly spicy oil that made it a bit more interesting, and little specks of black pepper.
White wine offered with this dish was very dry, and too banana-flavored on the nose. Not a good pairing, in my assessment.
More to come.