New York’s James Beard Foundation took their act on the road this fall, staging “Taste America” dinners in 10 cities across the country. Their penultimate destination was San Francisco, where celebrated local chefs (and a ringer from Austin) displayed their culinary skills October 24 before an appreciative audience of several hundred in the Ritz-Carlton’s newly remodeled ballroom.
During a reception before the main event, guests savored hors d’oeuvres created by Tyler Florence, Daniel Patterson, Jennifer Puccio, Staffan Terje and the Ritz’s own Michael Rotondo, before being ushered into the ballroom where Michael Mina teamed with Austin’s Paul Qui for a four-course dinner. The fare ranged from sea urchin to squab, and was accompanied by wines from Wine Road and beer from Stella Artois (designed to serve as a palate cleanser, according to co-emcee Leslie Sbrocco, who had just returned from an appearance with Hoda and Kathie Lee on the Today show).
While diners savored their Flowering Ginger and Persimmon Panna Cotta, a live auction raised funds for the James Beard Foundation, named in honor of the late cookbook author and TV personality. One of his contemporary counterparts, Jacques Pepin, was in attendance, and graciously posed for so many photos it’s a wonder he got to sample any of the food set before him.
The Ritz-Carlton’s newly reminted ballroom was designed to banish any whiff of institutional banality. In place of sedate creams and beiges, the room was dominating by a graphic floral carpet rendered in Wagnerian grays and blacks—designed to evoke San Francisco’s foggy skies, the publicist explained. It was a welcome change, and a perfect complement to the bold flavors tickling guests’ palates.
Photographs by Gamma Nine