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2010 Epcot International
Food & Wine Festival
Celebrating Family and Friends
in the Kitchen
Celebrating Family & Friends in the Kitchen
November 5, 2010
Guest Chef Art Smith Personal Celebrity Chef, Chicago, IL
Art and Soul Restaurant, Washington, D.C.
Chateau des Charmes Winery
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
by John Bowers
AllEars.Net Guest Writer
Vegetable Grain Soup with Foccacia
Riesling, Estate Bottled
Herbed Mustard Breast of Chicken, Potatoes and Mushrooms, with Fava Beans and Pecorino Curls
Merlot, St. David's Bench Vineyard
Pear and Mascarpone Pizza
Ice Wine, Estate Bottled
One of the Food and Wine Festival's Special Experiences is the Celebrating Family and Friends in the Kitchen event, which this year has been held every Friday from 10:00 AM until noon in the Festival Welcome Center. Celebrity Chef Art Smith was the guest chef on Friday, November 5th, 2010.
About 11 tables of six persons each were full, and Pam Smith was our gracious hostess. Art Smith is a native of the North Florida town of Jasper, attended Florida State University, and became chef to former Florida Governors Bob Graham and Jeb Bush. In 1997, he began a 10-year-long position of personal chef to Oprah Winfrey. Currently, his signature restaurant is Table Fifty-Two, "the home of Southern Hospitality in Chicago." He is also chef/owner of Art and Soul Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Despite his years in Chicago and Washington, he retains much of his Southern charm and liberally sprinkles his presentations with Southern wit and humor.
Shortly before his recent 50th birthday, Art was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. He told us his doctor said if Art wanted to keep enjoying life he needed to make some drastic changes. In the last year, Art has lost 100 pounds, and on October 31, 2010 he completed the Marine Corps Marathon. When Pam introduced Art, he bounded out with the medal he got for the Marathon around his neck, and held it up to loud applause.
Art mentioned the challenges of losing so much weight, especially for a Southerner. "The South was founded on sugar. That, and lard!" Art said.
Paul Bosc, from Chateau des Charmes Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada was our wine host. Paul is a fifth-generation French winegrower who founded Chateau des Charmes in 1978.
Our first course was Vegetable Grain Soup with Foccacia. The soup was tomato-based, and included pearl barley, split peas, lentils, potatoes, zucchini, cabbage and carrots. A lovely fall soup, it was appropriate as the morning low in Orlando that day had dipped into the upper 40s. Paul paired a 2008 Riesling with the soup. He noted that riesling styles can vary from very dry to sweeter, making them quite versatile and food-friendly. Our riesling was slightly dry and minerally, and contrasted well with the savory soup.
Art is famous for his fried chicken, which he admitted he has had to cut back on. He said, rather wistfully, that he only eats one piece a week now. Since he couldn't make us his fried chicken, our second course was Herbed Mustard Breast of Chicken, Potatoes and Mushrooms, with Fava Beans and Pecorino Curls. The potatoes were cut into wedges, roasted in the oven, and mixed with pan-roasted mushrooms. The chicken was also pan-roasted and dressed with a mustard/tarragon/chive sauce. The fava beans were cooked briefly in boiling water to loosen the skin, peeled, and then sauteed briefly in a little olive oil and garlic. A delightful combination, even though Art couldn't fry the chicken! While he was preparing the course, Art mentioned his 97-year-old grandmother who still lives in Jasper, Florida. He said nobody knows where Jasper is, but everybody there lives a long time.
Paul paired a St. David's Bench Merlot with our second course. The wine was an Old World-style merlot, earthy and somewhat dry, not as jammy or fruit-forward as some New World merlots are. A very nice pairing with the savory chicken.
Art seemed to be most proud of his dessert, which was Pear and Mascarpone Pizza. In fact, he spent much of his time showing us how to make the sweet dough crust. He mentioned he had recently met Lady Gaga, who told him how disappointed she was that he had not won on the television show Top Chef Masters. Art was thrilled that she knew he had even been on the show, and he said, "It just goes to show you, it ain't about winning, it's about being memorable!"
The dessert pizza was topped with roasted pears and cherries, toasted pecans, agave nectar, and brown sugar. If that doesn't sound good enough, Art incorporated cinnamon into the dough. Everyone was drooling watching the preparation, and the finished product was wonderful. This dessert would be a memorable ending to a Thanksgiving meal. Paul paired a terrific ice wine with the dessert. Ice wine is made from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine, and is usually a sweet wine, perfect with desserts. The grape for Paul's wine is called vidal blanc, and the wine was a lovely golden color, and almost as sweet as Southern iced tea. Paul said the grapes are picked in the middle of the night in January in Ontario. Searching for a way to convey how cold it is, he said down here in America you might call it 'friggin' COLD!'
Art gave us all a surprise near the end by showing how he makes his peanut brittle, and each table got a little sample. Finally, he expressed his appreciation to Disney, noting how, like many Floridians, he grew up visiting Disney World. He told us all how happy he is whenever he visits. "Find your happy place," he said.