Aim for the outfield

Gay chef Abraham Salum tests his Beard dinner and hits a home run

Sea-bass-Desiree-Espada

BASS PRO | The sea bass was the star of the test menu Abraham Salum plans for his upcoming James Beard House dinner. (Photo courtesy Desiree Espada)

While the Texas Rangers are vying for the American League pennant, the World Series for one local foodie is going on right now.

Chef Abraham Salum already has a solid local reputation for his inventive cuisine, but this month, he gets called up to the bigs. As any chef knows, that means one thing: Cooking at the James Beard House in New York City.

The James Beard Foundation’s mission is “to celebrate, preserve and nurture America’s culinary heritage and diversity in order to elevate the appreciation of our culinary excellence.” That means inviting cooks to strut their stuff at a variety of events, including the chance to prepare a meal at the JBF House. The invitation alone is an honor, and one Salum will be executing on Oct. 21.

But before the big night, Salum — chef-owner of both his eponymous Uptown eatery and neighboring Komali — tested the waters on his planned JBF dinner with a preview tasting.

The evening began at Komali, with passed hors d’oeuvres. Items on deck included seafood tostadas, Lebanese style arancini balls, caprino royale Texas goat cheese and country butter biscuits with chicken fried chicken.

Next at bat: A full four courses with wine pairings, plus dessert, served up in the Salum dining room.

The lineup was luscious: Chilled cream of corn, seared diver scallop with pickled beet carpaccio, oven roasted sea bass and braised pork jowls combined for an inventive menu with mango bread pudding as a sweet closer.

It’s next to impossible to choose one favorite from this team, though the oven roasted sea bass, served over pumpkin bisque, shaved Brussels sprouts and Spanish chorizo saute topped the heavyhitters list. The fish was sweet and flaky; a sprinkle of dukkah dust formed a delicious crust on top. The chorizo and the sprout lent the perfect amount of spice and texture to the creamy bisque.

I also fell in love with the mango bread pudding served per the chef “Mexican style,” with prickly pear sauce and queso cotija ice cream. Even a bread pudding skeptic like myself would not be not ashamed to admit to devouring every morsel.

Chefs get to the Beard House, named after the late gay gourmand, having established a national or regional reputation marked by use of high-quality, seasonal and/or local ingredients with demonstrated excellence in a particular discipline as well as the recommendations of his or her peers. As Chef Salum’s test dinner proved, the local gay chef is set to knock his JBF debut right out of the ballpark.

— Jenny Block

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TASTING NOTES

The-Family-Place-CupcakeBurgers and Burgundy, the DIFFA foodie fundraiser introduced two years ago, is back for its third installment on Sunday. The combination of red wine and gourmet burgers, featuring culinary creations from chefs including host John Tesar (The Commissary), Matt McCallister (Campo), Tim Byres (Smoke) and Teicchi Sakurai (Tei An), descends on One Arts Plaza from 4 to 7 p.m., Oct. 9. (If you don’t like wine, Grey Goose vodka cocktails will be poured.) Tickets are $75, and available at all participating restaurants or online at DIFFADallas.org.

Sprinkles Cupcakes has a history of leveraging the sale of their indulgent treats into charitable benefits, and the next one is near and dear to many queer hearts. From Nov. 1–6, 100 percent of proceeds from the sale of dark chocolate cakes adorned with a lavender dot, above, will go to The Family Place to combat teen bullying. Show youth “it gets better” while scarfing down a moist Sprinkles cupcake. It doesn’t get better than that.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

 

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Gilding the rainbow • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Invitations can be tricky for gay couples, but they don’t have to be

WRITE it right | Pay attention to details on invitations and make an elegant first impression.

BY HOWARD LEWIS RUSSELL

Face it: The day after the wedding, no guest ever recalls clear details about the event, except (possibly) that the bride managed to meet her goal weight by aisle date and even look halfway virtuous for once, and that the cake afterward at the reception was worth the calorie splurge (despite having been only served the barest micro-sliver of a slice). Nobody remembers what kind of out-of-season floral exotica draped the nuptial knot gazebo, or whether it was sea bass, steak kabobs or free-range organic chicken satays impaled upon plastic pink flamingo skewers. And certainly nobody in a zillion years ever recollects with lucid rapture the cleverly elegant invitation mailed them, or what even happened after they dropped off the gift.

The agony of indecision same-sex couples endure, sighing over their invitations’ border-edging of whimsically esprit “Lilacs in the Sun” versus majestically ceremonial “Winter Palace Mist,” or the slightly “naughty” font type of “Roman Bacchanalia” over the cursively sedate and proper “Mrs. Astor Regrets . . .” goes completely unappreciated by wedding guests the morning after — if it ever didn’t when they first opened an ornately faboo envelope in their snail-mail pile stone sober six weeks earlier.

Such beautiful, laboriously detailed ornamentation engraved upon 70 percent Egyptian pima cotton rag with raised, natural-dye embossing (never tested on animals) should be a cherished keepsake treasured by every guest forever rather than yet-another piece of cardboard detritus blankly thrown into a recycler the next day. And yet a hand-scribbled invite Xeroxed on canary yellow doesn’t capture the gravity of the event … and seems downright tacky.

Therein lies the crux in this new age of austerity: Where to spend the bucks for the biggest bang at one’s betrothal of fabulosity?

Invitations may seem the most natural area in which to trim wedding-cost corners. But since it will be the first swanky entrée for your guests  to see, it sets the tone of whether this ceremony is actually worth RSVPing to.

So why not have things both ways — simultaneously saving needed money (and face) and blowing your guests’ lavender carnation boutonnières off? If you can’t gild the rainbow a bit on your wedding day, then when should you?

All that glisters can be gold, gay and even groovy; plus, at least where wedding expenses are concerned, you won’t have to hock your ring two weeks back from that splendiferous Puerto Vallarta or P’town honeymoon simply to pay for the invitations.

Of course, you can use an online resource like GayWeddings.com, which offers a revelatory “Simply Sensible Line” of any and all essential stationary options, while the “Essentials Package” starts at only $114, for 100 invites, and includes extras like blank outer envelopes, response cards and a pre-printed return envelope.

For those of you lovebirds wishing to hands-on peruse in advance your options at literal bricks-and-mortar businesses specializing specifically in custom-printed gay and lesbian invitations, there are, sad to say, no such stationary stores located in Dallas. Not one.

However, for the personal touch, Write Selection at Royal and Preston is delighted to customize a same-sex wedding ceremony’s invitations.

“There are literally thousands of invitation choices to select from,” says Terry Cummings of Write Selection. “Most usually take only a week to produce; for specialized custom orders, around two weeks.”

Packages come in increments of 25: This consists of the invitation itself, with an outer envelope — formal if you like — and an inner envelope to the addressee, plus a RSVP set which includes a RSVP card with an envelope addressed back to you.” Cummings adds, “Always remember to put stamps on the RSVP envelopes before mailing out your invitations, excepting when guests live out of the country — in which case they are expected to provide the appropriate postage themselves.”

Write Selection, 314 Preston Royal Village. 214-750-0531

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens