Friday, April 16, 2010
Farm to Table at JCT Kitchen
I jumped at the chance to attend JCT Kitchen's Farm to Table & Back dinner for so many reasons. JCT has a commitment to fresh, seasonal, local ingredients that are whipped up European style with southern flare. The dining room is so very pretty, upscale and down home at the same time. 100% of the proceeds of this dinner were to benefit Georgia Organics, an organization that is trying to integrate healthy, sustainable and local food into the mouths of Georgians. If that is not reason enough, Hugh Acheson, four-time James Beard Best Chef Southeast finalist and chef/partner of 5&10, The National and Gosford Wine in Athens was the guest chef for the evening.
My dinner companion and I were greeted and seated in a cozy candlelit table next to a table with a writer and companion working on a review for a local paper.It was entertaining to talk with them because they had so many food aversions but were still terribly excited by the food. Chef Ford Fry came by to welcome us and thank us for giving to a cause that is near and dear to his heart.
We were given the gorgeous menu reminiscent of the elegantly rustic promo. The table next to us said "ooh pretty!" and talked about the font for a while. Our beautiful taste arrived an we stared. A luscious, plump Brunswick ruby red shrimp nestled in buttermilk dressing with chopped celery, micro greens and UGA caviar left a lingering impression on my palate. I loved my first bit of this sustainable caviar, but the celery was the ingredient that rounded out the dish for me. Such a simple, overlooked ingredient made this dish come alive for me.
Next was She crab soup with sherry and hard boiled egg served with a glass of Frogtown MRV 2006. This rhone blend was softly layered with notes of pear and honeysuckle and perfectly complimented the soup. THE SOUP! I will order she crab soup if ever it is on a menu and I can honestly say this was the best I have ever had. It was so full of sweet crab that I could have eaten most with a fork. This was my favorite moment of the evening.
The second course arrived with a La Craie Vouvray. Coming off of my she crab high I was presented with beets--happy, happy girl. This roasted carrot and beet salad with feta was so simple with pulled together freshness. The cumin vinaigrette gave it added zing and punch. The Loire vouvray was fresh, young and had a minerally crispness; a perfect compliment. The apricot aroma was what I was commenting on just as the evening's chef, Hugh Acheson arrived at our table. His enthusiasm for the evening, the food and the mission was intoxicating. We held his charming company at our table as long as we could. We chatted about our meal and his upcoming venture Empire State South. I am brushing up on my bocce ball for the opening in August. Word on the street is that Parish chef, Nick Melvin will be chef de cuisine. What an amazing duo they will be.
A 2007 Girasol Cabernet arrived to head off our third course. This was a big cab that lusciously delivered toasty oak, cassis, hints of chocolate and lingering cherry notes. It was a pleasant surprise alongside the smothered pork chops over grits with morels and ramps. I like to pair cabernets with pork. Who says pork goes better with a pinot? The pork chops were good. Don't get me wrong, the chops were gorgeous and perfectly seared, but the stars of this dish were the morels and ramps. They admirably highlighted the beneficiary of this dinner, Georgia Organics. Nothing beats fresh seasonal ingredients for sublime taste as well as a connection to the earth.
We finished our meal with a lovely Mrs. Dulls shortcake with a spring fruit compote and whipped cream. Being a transplanted southerner, I had to look up Mrs. Dulls. Henrietta Dull had a popular cooking column in the Atlanta Journal Constitution where she created authentic dishes in a traditional style. She was so popular that her recipes were compiled into a cookbook with menus to boot. She died in 1964 at the age of 100. The AJC said her book was "the standard by which regional cooks have been measured since 1928." Wish I had known all of this while I was enjoying the shortcakes, for I think they would have tasted even better. Our cheers to a great evening came by way of a Castelier cava from Spain. A perfect ending to a perfect dinner.
The next Farm to Table and Back dinner at JCT Kitchen is July 15th with guest chef Chris Hastings of the Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham. I will see you there!
*photos from Melissa Libby