Sometimes, my life is just far too awesome for words.
Sunday night, I was invited by a friend to attend an amazing event at The National Golf Club in Parkville â€” a 6-course dinner prepared by season six Top Chef contestants Eli Kirshstein and Kevin “Beardy” Gillespie and The National’s Executive Chef, Eric Barkley.
You may remember a few weeks back when I talked about the Top Chef Tour coming to Kansas City. In that post, I said:
[My friend] Eric [who is the Director of Food & Beverage for The National] is actually bringing back Eli and one of my personal favorites, Kevin â€œBEARDYâ€ Gillespie for a special 6-course event (two by each Top Chef and 2 by Chef Barkley from The National) at their clubhouse in May.
Well, I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest to this amazing event. Alli and I were seated next to the pastry chef and executive chef (and 4-time James Beard Award nominee) of bluestem in Westport, which was really a treat. Not only were we treated to an amazing meal, but we had some great company and got some insight into the cooking side of things from Colby and Megan.
And now, the food…
The first course was prepared by Chef Barkley. It was a walleye served on a bed of sweet corn topped with ramps (wild leeks), morels, black truffles with a white wine foam. There were a lot of things that I just typed that I had never eaten before Sunday night, particularly ramps, which are apparently a very difficult to acquire vegetable (unlike normal leeks). As a lead-off dish, this was bright and interesting, but kind of large. The sweetness of the corn counteracted the acidity of the pickled ramps and the richness of the walleye and black truffles. I liked it a lot.
The second course was prepared by Chef Kirshtein, a scallop served on top of black garlic with Enoki mushrooms. I was really looking forward to having some scallops, but was a little disappointed in this dish. The scallop itself was nicely cooked and the black garlic was delicious, but I couldn’t get into the mushrooms. I want to be adventurous in my eating, but these were a little out there.
This next dish surprised the crap out of me. I did not expect that Chef Kirshtein’s chicken with broccoli gremolata and lily bulb puree would be my favorite course of the night. I have never tasted a chicken that was cooked better. The skin was crispy and the meat of the chicken was rich and tender and in stark contrast to the vinegar-y broccoli gremolata. Another wonderful surprise about this dish was the lily bulb puree. This was a point in the meal where it was extremely helpful to have chefs Garrelts at our table. I learned that lily bulb was actually a fancy name for onion. So basically, it was like a potato puree, only with onions. And it tasted awesome.
The fourth course was our first from Chef Beardy Gillespie, and it was actually a Top Chef challenge winner from last season’s Pigs and Pinot challenge. What was it? It’s difficult to tell from the picture, so let me help: it was a pork terrine with a pickled cherry and a mushroom salad (not like a green salad, but like a chicken salad…it’s that gray stuff on top of the pork terrine slice). I really liked this dish. It wasn’t amazingly appetizing to look at (although it was extremely cleanly plated), but it tasted salty and sweet and balanced. Yum.
Our next dish, from Chef Eric Barkley, had my favorite side item of the night. Served with a wagyu Kansas City (they called it New York…I refuse to do so) strip loin topped with a vidalia onion compote was a completely EPIC gorgonzola bread pudding with bacon. (Okay, so the dish was technically centered around the strip loin, but not for me.) So much awesomeness here. If I described it more, you might become insanely jealous and hunt me down.
The final savory dish was from Chef Beardy and was quite an experience. Now, I’ve had lamb loin before at Perilla in New York. I have not, however, had lamb loin with sweetbread (most mis-named food EVER) fricassee, lemony greens and potato cream. I wasn’t too hip on eating the thymus and pancreas of an animal, but I figured I had to give it a shot. Really weird. The lamb was pretty good too and the pomegranate brown butter that it was served with was quite tasty.
I didn’t actually photograph the 7th bonus course, which was prepared by the Herndon Career Center from Raytown. The dessert plate was a myriad of deliciousness â€” a Meyer lemon verbena sponge cake, chocolate two ways, homemade orange “pop rocks” and some nitro ice cream in a macadamia nut cone. The cone was the best part, but considering that it was concepted and prepared by high schoolers, I was really impressed.
After the meal, the chefs came out and answered some questions and told stories of their culinary background and their experiences on the show. I’d heard some of Eli’s stories from the Top Chef event from last month, but it was really fun to hear some of Beardy’s stories, since he was my favorite from last season.
I can’t thank my friend Eric enough for inviting me and Alli to attend this event. It was such a great experience to each such delicious food. I know that The National is working on another Top Chef-inspired event in September. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and I’ll be sure that you know about the event if you’re interested. If you love food and you love Top Chef, you really shouldn’t miss these special events.
I know that I’m glad I didn’t miss this one.