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

Strap on the food bag: Beaujolais, Pyles, Dish

This is a foodie kinda season anyway, with Thanksgiving around the corner, but I gotta say, there are almost too many interesting eating opportunities going on this week even for me. Here are a few:

Beaujolais Festival. The French-American Chamber of Commerce for DFW hosts this event every year, on the Friday after the third Thursday in November — traditionally, the day in France when the beaujolais nouveau is first released. It’s a fun, huge event (back at the World Trade Center this year) that offers up not only 2010 beaujolais but some vintage French wines as well as some Texas-grown grape. It starts Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. and tickets are $60 at the door. Visit FACCDallas.com for info.

Stephan Pyles 5th Anniversary Festival. Pyles has been full of celebrations this week: On Tuesday his Samar cheered its naming by Esquire as one of the top 10 new restaurants in America (they didn’t hold a similar part last December, when it made my top 5, but let’s not linger). Now on Sunday, he’ll toast the fall harvest with live music, cooking demonstrations and of course food and drink. It’s Nov. 21 from 4 to 8 p.m.; the cost is $50. Visit StephanPyles.com for tickets.

Dish dinner and benefit. You can get a great meal for a good price ($45/$65 with wine pairings) and do something wonderful for the community on Wednesday — Thanksgiving Eve. Just stop by the ilume restaurant from 6 to 9 and order the special thee-course dinner and the restaurant will donate a week’s worth of groceries to a client of Resource Center Dallas for each dinner served. I mean think about that for a sec: You eat one meal, you feed someone else for a week. The dinner includes such options as mushroom risotto, herb roasted tenderloin and pecan brownie. Call 214-522-DISH to make a reservation.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones