Taste of the NFL at the James Beard House: Stuffing Your Face Against Hunger

by Jason Roth on November 17, 2010

If fighting world hunger requires me to eat lamb burgers with foie gras and blueberry jam and bacon-wrapped scallops, then you know what? I’m willing to go that extra mile. There’s people out there that need me.

Kent Rathbun, Mark Haugen, Stephane Motir, Tim Love, and Bobby Flay (top); three ladies just there for the food (bottom)

As I stood in the back room holding an extra glass of red wine while my cohort snapped a photo in the kitchen, Taste of the NFL founder Wayne Kostroski noticed my momentary double-fisting and said, “I like your style.” Stupid me, I thought he was referring to my sport jacket (on sale at Macy’s, thank you), but I realized it was my humanitarian efforts. He’s the James Beard Foundation’s 2010 Humanitarian of the Year winner, so he must know what he’s talking about.

The interesting thing about the “Taste of the NFL” dinner was that it was held during Monday Night Football. So, while the real fans were out eating Buffalo wings and watching Philly trounce the Redskins, the rest of us just ate. This particular meal was attractive because of the collection of chefs. I’ve enjoyed Mesa Grill, so Bobby Flay’s appearance was exciting. (Off topic, but for some reason, I liked the Vegas location much more than the NYC spot.) Tim Love also makes lots of TV appearances and his food looked hearty and interesting. And, as co-host of the event, Drew Nieporent, later said gleefully, fellow chef Kent Rathbun had actually defeated Bobby Flay on an episode of Iron Chef America. Mark Haugen, Chef Director of Taste of the NFL, Stephane Motir of Tribeca Grill, and Gina Gallo of Gallo Family Vineyard fame, were also in attendance.

Cocktail hour proved a success: the flavors were strong, and the quantities were plentiful.

Lobster shooters. The idea of throwing food into the back of your mouth always seemed strange to me. So, I only ate two.

Spicy shrimp on a corn chip... hmm, which chef could have done this?

Foie gras on a lamb burger, proving once again that it can indeed make everything taste better. Taking the lead, if only momentarily, against bacon.

Chef Mark Haugen showing how he and the Vikings do it back in Minneapolis.

Sitting next to one of Flay’s friendly PR agents, we enjoyed a remarkably well-integrated five-course meal. With flavors like jalapeno, bacon, smoked duck, wild boar, and chestnut, things were unlikely to go wrong.

Stone ground grits, with mushrooms, ricotta, and jalapeno pesto: Flay's dish was this author's personal favorite.

If this were bone barrow, it would have been less fattening. (Chipotle bacon-wrapped sea scallop, roasted cauliflower risotto, and meyer lemon butter.)

A rare salad at the James Beard House, with endive, jicama, orange, and pomegranate, and recommended daily allowances of smoked duck and blue cheese.

Wild boar. Well, which is it?

No quenelles may be made without the express written consent of the NFL.

Petits four fit for a linebacker. Well, almost.

How these chefs fit in the kitchen, let alone turn out stuff like this for a big group of people all at the same time, is an achievement in itself. In closing, I’d make some sort of cheesy and painful pun using a football analogy, but then I might have to take some kind of weapon to myself. Shotgun!, for example.

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