Brunch: Mimosas were sipped, hobnobbery was had, and key word combos like “duck fat,” “creme filled” and “chili garlic butter” were sought at each station. It was the Meals from the Masters Celebrity Chefs’ Brunch. The Chelsea Hotel brought the doughnuts, Wawa brought the coffee, and Top Chef Stephanie Izard brought the braised goat belly.
This was my third go-round at the Brunch, and the lineup of world-class chefs assembled on Sunday was perhaps the best I’ve seen. The day was not without its controversy: most local chefs, including past participants like Dan Butler, the Green Room and Union City Grille’s Matt Curtis, were reallocated to the Friday night Evening with the Masters. Jay Caputo, owner of Espuma and Porcini House in Rehoboth, was the lone Delaware representative.
Still, it was hard to argue with the talent in the building.
Like, for instance, Craig Deihl of Cypress in Charleston, S.C., who showed me iPhone pictures of his house-cured meats like a proud papa. His coppa ham and reduced melon plate was a refreshing and delicious version of the brunch standard.
Chefs from Madrona Manor in Healdsburg, Ca. were back with their liquid nitrogen tank, creating a “study of beets” and making the area outside the atrium fog up like a Whitesnake concert. Here, chef Jesse Mallgren whips the juice of pickled golden beets into frozen “gravel” (think beet-flavored Dippin’ Dots) that accompanied pureed red beets and Gorgonzola foam.
Very few people know this, but Marc Vetri named his latest restaurant after me. Yeah, me and “Veets” go way back, from when we were both washing dishes at Wolfgang Puck’s place in Malibu.Brad Spence and chefs from Me prepared Sbrisolona-style coffee cake.
In case I haven’t made it clear already, the Brunch presents guests with many, many opportunities for indulgence. Chef Pierino Jermonti of Terranea Resort had perhaps one of the best. His chocolate, caramel, and sea-salt pate were a decadent construction of chocolate-Amaretto mousse and soft ganache atop a thin brownie base. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to clean the drool off my keyboard.
If Tyler Florence were in the house on Sunday, he’d probably deem this item Ultimate Brunch: Corned beef tongue hash and duck-fat potatoes with smoked mustard cream. That’s like seven keywords in one dish, courtesy of The American Grocery and chef Joe Clarke.
The day’s most gushed-over dish? That would be the three-day pork skewers made by Delaware’s own Jay Caputo. Jay’s slow-cooked, chili-rubbed pork shoulder was so tender, it barely stayed together on the skewer. No wonder it’s a signature dish at Espuma.
Saturday, April 23: One of my fave food events of the year, Rusty Rudder’s Country Chili Cookoff, kicks off its 6th annual competition Saturday at 1 p.m.
Dozens of restaurant chefs and home chili heads will line the Rudder’s walls with festive tables and vats, crocks and pots of their best chili recipe. Check out some past coverage here on my old Home Skillet blog.
Tasting starts at 1 p.m. and judging goes down at 3 p.m. Click here for numbers and info.