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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

CWFF: A beautiful tribute to Frank Stitt

And no cilantro in sight

Posted by Stephanie Barna on Wed, Mar 6, 2013 at 8:00 AM

It's hard to describe how excited I was to be on the guest list of the Food and Wine with a View dinner this year. Not just because it's in the most beautiful space on the peninsula but because this year was designed as a special tribute to Frank Stitt, the renowned chef from Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Ala.

First, the setting: Terri Henning's home encompasses the top two floors of the People's Building on Broad Street and is spectacular with a 360-degree views of Charleston, a mirrored powder room that I want to live in, and the most sumptuously beautiful decor. Don't believe me? Click this link and check out the Architectural Digest slideshow.

Second, the tribute: Frank Stitt handpicked the chefs who would be cooking this dinner, which would pay homage to his influence and accomplishments. Here's a pdf of the menu. menu.pdf

After champagne and hors d'oeuvres (pimento cheese macaroons! oysters with uni!), we gathered around to watch a poignant film.

As John T. Edge said, "He is the place where it all begins in the South."

The film was the perfect place to begin a dinner such as this. Guests were seated at tables set with beautiful dishes, suede tablecloths, and cute little nametags (which I squirreled away in my purse as a souvenir).

iPhone pic
Dinner started with a king mackerel escabeche dish from Hugh Acheson from Empire State South in Atlanta and the Five & Ten and the National in Athens. Stitt's good friend Harry Root of Grassroots Wine provided the wines, making particularly interesting and meaningful selections and pairing two wines with each course. With the mackerel we had a 1999 Riesling “Steinriesler” Nikolaihof and a 2006 Riesling Steiner Hund “Reserve” Nikolaihof. A nice kickoff to the seated portion of the dinner.

Up next, was a dish from Linton Hopkins that he dubbed "Crabe Stitt — topinambours, ventre de porc fumé, petits pois anglais." He explained that you could make anything a Stitt — Steak Stitt, Fish Stitt — just by adding a few key ingredients: sunchokes, bacon, and peas. A good tip. His Crab Stitt was beautiful and delicious. A fine tribute to his friend. Harry decided to surprise us with a champagne pairing for this course too. Nice touch.

The guinea hen — wish it was in focus
  • The guinea hen — wish it was in focus
So, Ben Barker is retired from Magnolia Grill, a fact I sadly discovered after licking my guinea farm hen plate clean. I was surprised how this dish looked, since it was a bit old school in presentation, but the taste was so outrageous, in an understated and rustic way, that my mind was blown.

And even though it was his dinner, Frank Stitt also presented a dish, giving the diners a taste of his genius. The lamb shoulder with Anson Mills polenta, Meyer lemon gremolata, and herb salad couldn't have been more perfect. And the wines presented with the course were acquired from Neal Rosenthal himself just for this dinner: the Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau” Vieux Télégraphe 1995 and the Châteauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau” Vieux Télégraphe 2008. Both quite amazing.

But that's not all kids. Karen Barker, the also-retired spouse of Ben, sent out a quivering plate of mascarpone panna cotta with sundried plums, candied orange, and shortbread crumble that was paired with a Riesling Auslese Norheimer “Dellchen” Donnhoff 2006. A sublime end to a wonderful night. I wish I could do it all over again, but this time with a charged camera battery so I could've taken better photos.

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