Despite setbacks including intermittent rain and no power to the building for at least an hour mid-day, our James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef dinner called “Starry Starry Night” came off in style this past Tuesday evening August 13, 2013.
We started the night before, renting a truck and emptying the restaurant of all it’s furniture to make room for the chefs to work. Early in the morning, our parking lot was emptied of cars, the dramatic Sperry Tent raised, True North’s gorgeous farm tables assembled, glassware and plates and table dressing delicately placed with guidance from Susan Ryan Ackell and Jen Chagnon of the Pink Polka Dot.
With celebrity chef Cal Peternell of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA and Anna Kovel former food editor of Martha Stewart Living at the helm, the kitchen was an incredible thing to witness. Cal held a meeting of staff at 9 am and the Quicks Hole crew led by our executive chef Stephanie Mikolazyk jumped into action prepping lobster, roast fennel, fish stock, fresh mozzarella and much much more. All day was spent bustling, chopping and prepping but the tone of the kitchen was calm, relaxed, jovial even.
All key ingredients for the meal were sourced from local farms, fisheries and the Falmouth Farmers Market. Running short on fish bones, I dashed to the Clam Man early in the morning where our friends there had saved this key ingredient for excellent stock, the critical base of the fish and lobster bouillabaisse.
One hundred lucky guests gathered on the deck of the inn with Woods Hole harbor twinkling beyond to enjoy bellini’s while noshing on passed appetizers like Washburn Island and Island Creek oysters with mignonette, smoked bluefish toasts with roasted fennel, fried panisses and summer vegetable fritters. Moving to the tent below, we were seated at farm style tables and the courses started arriving, first a salad of heirloom tomatoes and freshly made mozzarella, then this incredibly light saffron and tomato bouillabaisse with scallops, lobster, mussels, cod and a Maison Villatte grilled bread topped with rouille.
Nectarine galettes (along with all the delicious breads) were provided by chef Boris Villatte of Maison Villatte an authentic french bakery here in Falmouth and dressed up by Chef Peternell with creme fraiche. Lavender chocolates from Sirenetta Seaside Chocolatier were passed with gooseberries.
Oooh La La!
We gathered to support both the James Beard Foundation and our local Falmouth Hospital which is in the process of raising money to expand it’s emergency room. Representatives from both organizations attended the dinner, and I spoke briefly about how important that emergency room is to the community, and how lucky we are to have such a good one. Jeff Black spoke on behalf of the James Beard Foundation.
Our celebrity guests included captains of industry from Boston, Providence, Newport, Falmouth and Woods Hole. Artists in the crowd were directors Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett, singer China Forbes of Pink Martini and actor James Waterston, all dear friends of mine who made the evening special.
As guests trickled from the tent at the end of the night, I enjoyed the gushing about this unique venue and Cal’s amazing food. After months of planning and the gauntlet of the day, it was really satisfying to have made people happy. I am also so grateful to the event sponsors including Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Bank of Woods Hole, Robert Paul Properties and the Sea Crest Beach Hotel and hope they will join us next year as we build on the success of this evening.
James Beard Foundation rep Jeff Black told me that despite seven years of circling America hosting 20+ dinners like this one per year, he had never hosted a celebrity chef dinner with anyone from Chez Panisse as the restaurant tends to stay focused on it’s roots. We are so grateful to Chef Cal Peternell for coming and falling in love with Woods Hole!
I am deeply grateful to the farms and vendors who supported this event, plus our volunteer staff who served so beautifully and made the night incredibly special: Allen Farm, Cabo Cado, Cape Cod Beer, Cape Cod Saltworks, Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards, Carpet Barn, Clam Man, Courtney’s Floral Creations, Edible Cape Cod, ElizaJ, Eva’s Garden, Fishmonger Cafe, Half Shell Co, Island Creek Oysters, Jacquelines Catering, Kayak Cookies, LKnife, Mac’s Seafood, Wellfleet Fish Co, Mahoney’s Garden Centers, Maison Vilatte, Mionetta Prosecco, Moonlight Rose, MS Walker, Narragansett Creamery, Newport Winery, Peachtree Circle Farm, The Pink Polka Dot, Pocasset Pretzel Co, Polar Beverage, Rentals Unlimited, Running Brook Vineyard, Shy Brothers Farm, Sid Wainer and Sons, Silverbrook Farm, Sironetta Chocolatier, Sperry Tents, Stella Artois Beer, Travessia Urban Winery, True North Event Rentals, Vermont Creamery, and Washburn Island Oyster Farm.
Finally, it must be noted that it takes a village to put something like this on, and the village of Woods Hole rallied to make this possible. Every business in the village helped out in some important way — offering sandwiches to feed our staff, extra parking places to wash dishes and clear up, walk in cooler space when we ran out, cocktail napkins that we forgot to buy and so much more. We are so lucky to work next door to places like the Landfall, Pie in the Sky, Jimmy’s, Coffee Obsession, Fishmonger, Phusion, Captain Kidd, Woods Hole Market, and Shuckers — could not make it through the summer without the support of our terrific peers. When you come to the food mecca of Woods Hole, you must try all these special spots. Thank you all!
Here are a few more photos of the evening for you to enjoy.
We are hosting a James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef dinner tonight, raising money for Falmouth Hospital. One hundred lucky guests will dine under a tent next to Quicks Hole (our farm-to-table restaurant) overlooking Woods Hole harbor and under the stars.
This will be a summer meal to remember…
The meal is being prepared by Chef Cal Peternell (of Chez Panisse, Berkeley CA), Anna Kovel (former food editor Martha Stewart Living) and our own Stephanie Mikolazyk (executive chef at Quicks Hole). You can read more about the chefs here. The guests come from Woods Hole and all over the world, foodies who unite in their passion for fine dining and a great cause.
Preparations for this special meal began over a year ago when I met the amazing and talented Cal Peternell, continued this winter when we went to cook with his crew at Chez Panisse, and heated up this spring with the help of many volunteers who came together to plan all the details for tonight.
Today, the parking lot next to the Inn will be transformed with a tent, shrubs, hydrangeas, long wooden farm tables, linen napkins, stylish rental chairs, flowers. At the same time, the kitchen will bustle with a different energy as lobster tacos are put away for the day and our crew boils stock, shucks oysters, steams lobster, mixes chickpea flour panisses, prepares smoked blue fish pate and much more.
I am eternally grateful to our sponsors, local companies who understand partnership, ambitious food and creative friendship: Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Bank of Martha’s Vineyard, Robert Paul Properties, and the Sea Crest Beach Hotel.
I am holding my breath, fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly….
Last week, Stephanie Mikolazyk and I were honored to “guest chef” at one of the most famous restaurants in America — Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. Head chef Cal Peternell invited us (as he will be coming to Woods Hole this summer for an epic farm-to-table dinner at our restaurant Quicks Hole on August 13th) and its safe to say we JUMPED at the chance.
We helped out in the kitchen for two full days, starting with the chefs meeting at about 1.30 pm, through all the prep work, then service for two seatings of 50 lucky customers and an extraordinary meal (see menus and photos below…not for the faint of heart).
We chopped, swept, cleared, plated and generally tried to stay out of the way in our Chez Panisse chef jackets. We were also invited to the chefs meal, where the kitchen crew sits down together to eat what they have cooked that night in very civilized a half-hour break between the first and second seatings.
I was astounded by the restaurants commitment to going green — every scrap of waste is composted or recycled if possible, all produce is sourced locally and organic — and the incredible calm demeanor of the staff. This kitchen has a culture of mutual respect and teamwork unlike any workplace I have ever seen. Alice Waters was not there, but you could feel her presence in this culture, a feeling that the process of working together, making the food with love, and sharing the journey was imbued in the copper lined walls, soaked into the butcher block tables and baked right into the wood-fired grill.
What follows is a photo essay of the highlights from our incredible experience. Thanks to all the chefs at Chez Panisse for making us feel so welcome, and especially to Cal whose calm leadership style is a personal inspiration.
Menus: The first night the menu was warm salad of cardoons and leeks with chervil, egg and black truffle followed by Tomales Bay clam brodetto with grilled fennel and Espelette pepper, then Becker Lane Farm pork loin with chicories, balsamic vinaigrette and sage, new onion and Lady William apple fritters plus tangerine millefoglie for dessert. The second night the menu was Chino Ranch radicchio and orange-scented beets with ginger vinaigrette, then Louisiana Gulf shrimp risotto with toasted sesame seeds and fried leeks, then Salmon Creek Ranch duck breast grilled with coriander, fennel and green garlic, with roasted parsnips and pickled persimmon relish and for dessert Meyer lemon ice cream profiteroles with pistachio-anise nougatine.
I re-read this menu and think — OMG!!! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Remember the scene in Harry Met Sally when Nora Ephron says, “I’ll have what she’s having…” ??
It was like that:)