Sunday, October 10, 2010

BCA Celebrates Diversity in Food & Wine

Story and photos by Dwight Casimere

New York—BCA, the Black Culinary Alliance, created a sumptuous display of culinary artistry at its 7th Annual Global Food and Wine Experience: Celebrate Diversity In Food & Wine at the elegant Prince George Ballroom in downtown Manhattan.

Thirty culinary artisans from restaurants, bakeries, caterers, wine and spirits shops and wine and spirits distributors offered patrons a tasting experience that covered the gastronomic globe. Premiere Cru Sponsors included W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Ltd., Southern Wine & Spirits of New York and Damascus Bakery, Inc. Southern Wine & Spirits donated $15,000 toward the continuing work of BCA.

BCA is a nationwide non-profit, educational and networking organization of hospitality and food service professionals, dedicated to providing quality educational and employment for culinary and hospitality professionals of color. The BCA 7th Annual Global Food and Wine Experience allows food and wine connoisseurs to experience the latest trends in cuisine, wine and entertainment, with culinary students working side by side with industry professionals in an exquisite environment.

“A key component of this event is the opportunity for the students to work side-by-side with culinary professionals,” said BCA President & CEO Alex Askew. “We want to demonstrate to our students that there are career opportunities that are up and beyond culinary arts, there’s food research, there’s baking, catering, food and wine television, these are all real opportunities that our students can pursue in the job market.

“The pairing of food and wine is also an essential element of this event. We want to show the synergy between food and wine, which is a dynamic force that fuels the industry. We want to show the contributions that have been made toward building that relationship. We also want to show how diversity has strengthened the industry and to honor those who have dedicated their time and energy to lay the groundwork for future generations.”

The Vision In Wine Award was presented to Bernard Sun, Corporate Beverage Director for Jean-Georges Management LLC. One of the country’s most respected sommeliers, and winner of the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Wine Service, Sun was recognized, not only for his passion for wine, but for his dedication toward sharing his knowledge with future generations who will take their place in the wine and culinary industry.

The real stars of the evening were the chefs who went all out to present their best. Chef Jonathan Reagan of Creole Restaurant and Music Supper Club in Harlem shared his recipe for Creole Shrimp Ceviche and Sweet Potato Beignets. “The ceviche is considered the best in the city. It’s almost like a chilled gumbo. We start with a tomato base and add shrimp. We flavor it with green and red peppers, green onions and Creole spices. The sweet potato beignets are a family secret!”

Tim Molinari is Executive Chef at Arpeggio restaurant in Lincoln Center. He presented some local seafood paired with seasonal vegetables and one of the wines being poured at an adjacent table. “We’re serving some seared sea scallops from Long Island over a cauliflower puree with a raisin-caper relish. It’s on the menu for the Fall, so we thought we’d give people here some fall flavors and showcase it here. The wine I recommend with it is a light Chardonnay. Caymus Conundrum is a good wine to go with it and they’re serving it here tonight.” Jeffrey Cortez, Sous Chef at Arpeggio added more description, “This dish is delectable, light and flavorful. It’s served as a light appetizer and the flavors are really designed to promote a light feeling in your mouth and get you ready for a really delectable dinner. The main thing is about the food and the flavor. The cauliflower is not seasoned heavily at all. Its lightly sautéed in a little butter and seasoned with just a touch salt and pepper. Its served with the caper relish and then finished with some micro-greens. I would recommend a very light Chardonnay or Riesling. A lot of times you have more success if you keep it simple. This dish proves that ‘simple” is the best way.” Amen! I rated Arpeggio’s scallop/cauliflower creation the Best of Show!

Chef Kavon William Langley of Gourmet Bliss Catering of Yonkers, New York, presented his Award-Winning Black Garlic Prawn Salad with Black Garlic Confit, Spring Greens and Black Garlic Dressing. This was a rich, complex dish that went splendidly with one of my favorite wines, Iron Horse Pinot Noir. Chef Langley is truly a Master Chef in every way. His exuberance and love for food is evident in his imaginative creations. He told the Wine Doctor that he is in the process of writing down his recipes, many of them handed down from his ancestors, in a formal cookbook. I’ll be in line for the first copy!

His motto, “No worries, we are here to take care of you!” is exemplified in the taste of his food.

Chef Jesse Jones of Heart and Soul Catering of Irvington, New Jersey received the title of Ultimate Chef Bergen County in March. One taste of his pulled pork strudel with fresh apricot and rice vinegar reduction with Caroline rice proved why.

No tasting event is complete without dessert and Harlem’s Make My Cake gave it a celebratory finish. With family recipes inspired by the family matriarch, Josephine Smith, affectionately called “Ma Smith”, the family team of Jo-Ann, Aliyyah, Kevin, Dedan, and Khalid turn out delicacies that have become a tradition at many Harlem celebrations. Their German Chocolate Cake, Red Velvet Cake and Sweet Potato Cheesecake are literally, “to die for.” I attended one Harlem birthday celebration where the debate over whether to have German Chocolate or Red Velvet Cake, resulted in a ‘compromise’ of cup cakes of both flavors substituted for the traditional birthday cake. It was delicious example of ‘détante’!

The Wine Doctor finished the evening with a visit just around the corner from the Prince George Ballroom to SD 26, on East 26th off Madison Square Park, the successor to Tony May’s wildly popular San Domenico restaurant on Central Park South, where his daughter and co-owner Marisa May hosted me in the Wine Bar & Lounge to Prosecco and their signature Polenta with wild mushrooms and “Uovo”, soft egg yolk filled ravioli with truffled butter. It was the perfect finish to a delightful celebration of diversity in the culinary arts.

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